A seminal work on treating self-mutilation, revised and updated with illuminating case studies and newly available resources.
Nearly a decade ago, Cutting boldly addressed a traumatic psychological disorder now affecting as many as two million Americans and one in fifty adolescents. More than that, it revealed self-mutilation as a comprehensible, treatable disorder, no longer to be evaded by the public and neglected by professionals. Using copious examples from his practice, Steven Levenkron traces the factors that predispose a personality to self-mutilation: genetics, family experience, childhood trauma, and parental behavior. Written for sufferers, parents, friends, and therapists, Cutting explains why the disorder manifests in self-harming behaviors and describes how patients can be helped.
The psychotherapist whose books (including the novel The Best Little Girl in the World) have illuminated the nature and treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anorexia nervosa and bulimia now shines the spotlight on another misunderstood behavioral disorder: self-mutilation. Levenkron begins by advising desensitization to the disturbing wounds, scars and blood-letting patients inflict upon themselves, redirecting focus toward the underlying issues. He likens cutting to OCD in that it is a compulsive act meant to relieve unbearable emotional pain, and to eating disorders in that it is a method of seizing control. Like anorexics, most cutters are girls, unable to express anger toward others, instead turning it against themselves. Levenkron is careful to explain that cutting is not the same as body piercing or tattooing, which reflect "adolescent trendiness," and that cutters are not suicidal, their wounds life-threatening only rarely and accidentally. Cutting is done secretly, "usually in a trancelike state," and "the act of creating pain... or drawing blood, is in itself the goal." Cutters then develop an "addiction" to this method of exchanging physical pain for emotional pain. With many examples from his practice, Levenkron provides clear and comprehensive information on the causes and effective treatments of this mysterious disorder, specific advice for therapists and an encouraging sense of hope for patients and their families.