White Paper – Billy Kluge

Topic Background

Self harm is the action of hurting oneself. Intentional harm is popularly thought of  to be done by cutting or burning of the skin, punching oneself, or throwing oneself against hard objects.  The caused pain is to receive an emotional release to feel better from the action. In modern times it’s viewed as controversial and unhealthy. Self-harmers are portrayed as mentally ill. Most people try to hide their scars from others which can make treatment more difficult.. Self-harming effects all demographics. From pain inflicted the victim’s brain releases beta endorphin, calming the person and becoming a natural emotional painkiller. Self harming is shown to be triggered by depression in many cases however, people who self harm are usually not suicidal.

My working thesis

Self harm is causing pain to oneself but the human body responds positively to it. It is an addiction similar to drugs or alcohol.  In many cases, treatment of the behavior makes the problem worse.

Counterintuitive note

A person inflicting pain on themselves is helpful. Self-harm is portrayed as a bad action but doing so has benefits. The action springs from feelings of sadness and can fix the problem. It’s a temporary fix but the good feeling is beneficial. Beta endorphin released scientifically allow the person to relax. Self harming is rarely done with the intention of killing oneself. It is used mainly as a way to release negative emotions. The release of negative emotions is healthy and can prevent suicide. It’s a way for the person to cope with their daily problems.

Topics for more discussion/Possible expansion:

-Many people do actions that can be viewed as self harm without even realizing they are doing so. Self harm is used in similar ways that people use drugs, alcohol, excessive exercise, sex, and food to cope with problems.

-Majority of doctors view self harm as a unhealthy action. This view makes it harder to help their patients. Telling the person what they are doing it a problem can make them feel worse and more inclined to harm.

-Self harmers do not intend to kill themselves while harming. Suicide and harming are two different issues.

Current State of the Research Paper:

This topic is interesting to me and has a lot of research put into it. I am still working on creating a better thesis. It is a difficult topic to write about. I do not want my paper to be a self harm support essay but instead to create a more open minded view on the idea of self harm. The way the body reacts positively to intentional harm and therapy from pain are both counter intuitive points. There is a lot to learn about how people think.

1. Self Harm

Self-harm occurs when someone is to hurt or harm themselves. Popularly it is thought to be done by cutting, burning, or punching one’s own body. Someone who self-harms is usually in a state of high emotional distress. Some self-harmers’ only do it once or twice but many do it regularly and develop an addiction.  People may also harm in less obvious ways such as recklessly taking drugs, unsafe sex, binge drinking, or not eating. Self harming can be done by anyone but more often is committed by young women, prisoners, the gay community  and people who have experiences sexual abuse as a child. Self harm can make a person feel in control and reduce uncomfortable feelings of tension.

This source provides information on defining self harm. It lists what actions are considered as harm and discusses the feelings and motives that come from inflicted pain. It also answers many other questions usually asked about harming and provides statistics about people who harm and what it means to them.

2. Nonsuicial

Research indicates that self-harm occurs in one to four percent of adults, fifteen percent of teens, and more than seventeen percent of college students in the United States. The act of inflicting pain can come from psychiatric disorders, personality disorders, dissociation disorders, and depression. Self-injury and suicidal behavior are mostly differentiated by intent, method, and psychological impact. Most self-injurers report that the intention of harm is to reduce negative affect or emotion and not to kill themselves. Intentional cutting accounts for only approximately two percent of completed suicides. Self harm is associated with decreases in negative emotion and reports of increases in positive affect.

This source provides in depth information about self harm. I want to use this article to show the difference between suicide and harming. This also provides statistics showing the percentage of people who self harm. The article specifically states that the action is associated with decreasing negative emotions.

3. Self Harm is good for you!

The average person’s understanding of self harm is distorted. Self harmers never intend to do anything but disfigure and harm their bodies. When this subject is mentioned society is censorious in its treatment and reaction. Samantha Warner, a practising clinical psychologist sees ‘self-harm’ as a positive statement and a perfectly rational course of action. Self harm should be viewed as therapeutic. Harming is a coping strategy. The majority view point of harming makes it difficult to appreciate its value to both self harmer. Many health services focus on preventing more incidents but this often causes more emotional distress. A new approach is being pioneered to allow young people a “safe self harm.”

This article brought up many questions to think about and will be useful in my paper. This shows that some psychologists don’t portrait self harm as bad and doing so does more harm than good, another counter intuitive point. The reasoning of Samantha Warner are controversial but are well supported and make sense. This article supports my white paper and this will be a very useful source.

4. Science of Harming

Experts say most people engage in self-injury as a way to cope with their negative emotions and injurers report that it work. It calms them and brings a sense of relief. The soothing results from the release of endorphin that relieve pain and produce happiness.  People use self harm in similar ways that people use drugs, alcohol, food or sex. Matthew Nock, a professor of psychology at Harvard came up with four main reasons for harming; relieve tension, feel something, show they are distressed, and to get others to stop bothering them. The behavior can begin at any point in life but adolescences is the usual time it begins. In early adolescence part of the brain involved in emotion is not fully developed and therefore can spark the behavior. Self-injury is also an easily accessible behavior for teens who have a hard time getting drugs or alcohol. A study has also shown that harmers had lower levels of opioids in their bodies and this deficiency makes the person harm to boost their opioid levels. Endorphins are a type of opioid.

This source shows a science prospective of harming. It discusses the chemicals in the brain that can lead to harming and why the calming feeling is a result of pain. This goes past harming due to past experiences and shows that it can be genetic. The body is counter intuitive  creating something good from a bad feeling.

5. The Bad Effect of Self Harm

Self harm is also referred to as self-mutilation. It becomes impulsive and addicting. It is recognized a psychiatric disorder. Like drinking or drugs there are harmful side effects. Symptoms of self-harm are scars, fresh cuts, bruises, hair loss, broken bones,  and insecurity. It also leads to people self isolating themselves. Physical injury distracts a person from the painful emotion and helps them feel a sense of control. It has been described to be used to feel less numb and detached from the world. Treatment is difficult and in many cases can actually worsen emotional state.

This source is from a treatment center. It describes the way they help their patients and discusses the symptoms of self harm. This also brings up treatment creating a worse emotional state of mind.

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9 Responses to White Paper – Billy Kluge

  1. cdisarcina says:

    Topic Background:
    I think its better to say that people self-harm in those forms, not that it comes in numerous forms. “Reason for” is better than “intentions of”. Separate it as two sentences. i think saying “self-harm ranges from children in their {age} to adults in {age}. If it has been a result from depression, what is it a result from now?

    My working thesis:
    Drop the rhetorical question and make a more concise and definitive thesis. Self-harm causes pain, the body has a positive response to this, which causes relief for harmers.

    Counterintuitive note
    “Self-harm is viewed around the world as a bad thing to do but the act of doing so actually some benefits.” – lolwut?
    Good research about how endorphins relax a person

    Topics for more discussion/possible expansion:
    -creative idea about smoking being self harm
    -I think you should flesh out the idea about smoking

    Current state:
    I think the best thing for you to do is experiment self harm on your own so you have first hand research and primary sources. Although you may be biased because it is your own paper…Just kidding don’t do any of that. Continue researching because this paper has a ton of potential if you choose a good path to take this topic.

  2. kaileewhiting says:

    Billy, I really like this idea because it truly is counterintuitive and something no one really talks about. A true social taboo in today’s western society. It’s really important that we don’t condemn people who may be mentally ill for doing something that makes them feel better. (Would you almost call that therapy? I’m not sure if that is stretching the idea too much, you decide.)

    Your thesis is a little difficult to understand, and I think it is jus the wording. Maybe something like: Self harm is the act of causing harm to oneself, but many times causes a positive reaction and feeling in the person’s body. Due to this, many self-harmers never stop because…blahblahblah. -Just an idea.

    I really like how you brought up the idea of cigarettes being a method of self harm. I never really thought of it that way, but it makes sense. A smoker knows that what they are doing to themselves is bad, but they find the calming result worth the damage they inflict. Maybe examine why smoking is socially acceptable and why self harm isn’t.
    What exactly are the social issues revolving around self harm?
    Other reasons to why people do it- I’m not so sure on this one either. I think it strays from your overall thesis. Don’t focus on other reasons cause I think it will just weaken your argument.

    Maybe you another topic could be one on depression and it’s link to self-harm. Explain what exactly is depression and why self-harm helps it.

    I really like where this essay/topic could go! It’s incredibly interesting and I think makes an excellent topic because it’s something everyone knows about, but never talks about.

  3. smithk53 says:

    First off, I really think this is a great topic to write about. It is very controversial and interesting to figure out why humans do the things they do especially when it seems like they are harming themselves.

    “Self harm is viewed around the world as a bad thing to do.”
    I don’t think that this is true everywhere around the world. What about cultures that use self harm as rituals, which I think you mentioned in your first paragraph. Who looks at self harm as beneficial? Are there any medical doctors that recommend self harm to patients? That would be an interesting direction to take it if any doctors of that sort do exist.

    -Other topics that you many want to look at for further papers that could be interesting is hazing and why people participate knowing that they may be hurt and/or humiliated.
    -Also maybe examining endurance sports such as marathons, triathlons, ect. which could also be looked at as self harm, but looked at as a healthy type of self harm. Does a “runner’s high” at all resemble the same type of beta endorphins released during self harm? If so, why is pushing your body to extremes during a race any better than less accepted self harm such as cutting. (I’m not sure if this even qualifies as self harm, but as an athlete this is what came to my mind and it may be helpful in proving your point about self harm being beneficial, if what I’m thinking is at all true.)

    I think this is a very good start to your paper and I am interested on where you will take the topic.

  4. davidbdale says:

    Honest to God, Kirsten, those two questions about hazing and endurance running are absolutely brilliant! The followup about the possible connection between a runner’s high and the endorphins released during self-harm convinces me more than anything else you’ve said this semester that you’re a very active intelligence with strong analytical skills. I just thought you might want to know. Enjoy your break!

  5. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Billy.
    What a jam-packed topic background! It needs focus but there’s a wealth of material. While it’s OK to consider ritualistic and ceremonial self-harm, you’ll want to funnel down quickly to your primary topic: the deliberate and secret infliction of pain to release endorphins. (Otherwise, you risk doing a pointless “survey” essay that ranges from totemic rite-of-passage rituals to the Jackass movies.)

    It’s a rich enough topic, and extremely counterintuitive, that people deliberately injure themselves as therapy.

    Substance abuse seems like a completely different topic to me. Am I missing something? The physical act of burning or cutting are so qualitatively different from drinking, smoking, or snorting a substance as to make those types of abuse seem irrelevant to your topic. Now, if you told me people stuck themselves with syringes and didn’t inject anything at all, just stuck themselves, I’d see the connection. Maybe the connection is that they’re all acts of abusing the outer surface of the skin, and watching yourself do it, to provide relief from within, from a substance the body produces.

    Who cuts? When does it start? Does anybody stop without intervention? Is it an adolescent phase? Is it at all economic? Does it run in families? Is it a reaction to specific trauma? There’s plenty here to learn and keep readers interested.

  6. davidbdale says:

    I see you’ve made revisions since my feedback, Billy, but not enough, and your sources are a little thin.
    Grade recorded.
    If you revise further, be sure to let me know by commenting here that you’d like another look.

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