Adolescence and Self-Injury

Friday, September 16, 2011

Patricia Adler, professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and co-author with husband, Peter Adler, of their most recent book, The Tender Cut: Inside the Hidden World of Self-Injury, discusses the troubling behavior and meaning of self-injury


Patricia A. Adler

Comments [21]

I'm not a troll.

I did not know that people of color are less often cutters, but it makes sense. For the most part, blacks and darker skinned people have to work harder and suffer more hardships in this country. They don't have the luxury of cutting themselves because daddy won't spank them.

You may not like my analysis, and I only said it was a hypothesis. Maybe it bothers you so much because it rings true. I've dated a lot of women, a fair number have been cutters, and they've all been pretty irresponsible girls with daddy issues.

Sep. 16 2011 07:47 PM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

@ Nicole

I'm glad you chimed in. I found the comments on the board implying that someone people of color could not possibly be doing this simply because of the color of their skin a bit silly really...especially considering it's a hidden behavior for the most part (duh) so how would anyone know for sure that the people they know personally aren't engaged in some form of behavior like this. And even if they weren't, how would one individuals handful of friends represent the community as a whole? Just bizarre logic...

We're all people, all the same species, all susceptible to the same behavior given the same conditions, stresses, cultural influences, etc No one is immune just because of their skin color,LOL!

Oh, and as a person of color, I had also engaged in this kind of behavior as welll, when i was much younger and it always felt like a way of controlling my emotional pain. It wasn't a compulsive behavior for me and I never did it once out of my teens, nor was I aware of anyone else doing it, but there you go.

So, there goes the stupid "it's only spoiled white kids" theory

Sep. 16 2011 12:09 PM
Nicole from Tarrytown

citydweller is a troll (IMO). Do not feed him.

Sep. 16 2011 12:06 PM

I have a hypothesis that this is due to people being wimpier and less able to withstand pain.

We've become a society of whiners. A society of people who lost the ability to own their pain and grow from it. We all know how overused medication is these days, but it's bigger than that. Many people feel the need to tweet or whine on facebook about the slightest malady - even a splinter.

And it's not even physical pain of course. Someone slights you at work - your whole day is ruined. Our society really is losing it's ability to deal with anything.

Ah, but there's always a balance sheet at the end of the day. We were not made to be whiners who wimper at the slightest prospect of pain. I'm also finding more and more women wanting rougher sex, pain during sex, and as a single guy in NYC, is a lot of fun, but once in awhile I have to stop and say, "is every girl in this city a messed up child?"

Sep. 16 2011 11:53 AM
David from Fredericksburg, VA

Pretending that self mutilation isn't wrong is a prime example of being so open minded your brain falls out of your head!

Sep. 16 2011 11:52 AM
Nicole from Tarrytown

I am a 30 yo woman of color and I find myself on the cusp of this behavior. I often feel so disappointed with myself, disgusted with my own, seemingly insurmountable, personal flaws, and overwhelmed with a lot of what life is throwing at me nowadays. As I result, I found that a few times when I felt overcome by all of these things, I bit myself, hit my head hard against a wall, hit myself, even flirted with the idea of cutting. I don't like this trend of behavior I'm drifting toward, but who can afford therapy? Who even has the time to find a therapist that actually helps? Without insurance, medication is out of the question, and with side effects that sometimes overwhelm the actual intended effect, is it even worth it? So I guess I'm saying that it's not just kids catching a "contagious" behavior, and its not just "nonsense, spoiled white kids" because I'm neither of those and I related to this story in a huge way.

Sep. 16 2011 11:52 AM
md from new brunswick

'spoiled white kids'? seriously? this is the kind of attitude that perpetuates the shame of it and keeps people from seeking help. - you havent got a clue, my friend. - (and wow, talk about being priviledged.. lucky you.). - this is EXACTLY the type of personality that could provoke the behavior... condescending, invalidating and judgemental. - just like my tyranical megoalomaniac father. that didnt permit any human emotion in his house that did not echo his own warped sensibilities. - kick any puppies on your way to work today? - jeez...

Sep. 16 2011 11:49 AM
Siouxie from bronx

I would injure myself only when I was under the influence, and when I was done my hands would be a painful mess.

Sep. 16 2011 11:47 AM

Aren’t sports like boxing, football, etc. self-injury. No pain, no gain?

Sep. 16 2011 11:45 AM
Listener from Brooklyn , NY

Not understanding why we don't want to "judge" these behaviors--all her talk about how it makes one feel better seems criminal to me. It IS self-mutilation.

I spent first 40 years of my life picking my skin till it bled and only thing that helped was anti-depressants. It was not "soothing" it was compulsive although I suppose an attempt to self-soothe.

Sep. 16 2011 11:45 AM
John A.

I think the guests are saying its new mainly because of the Internet. Tumblr, for one is an "echo chamber" for adolescent angst. In time it may even seem as a place for bragging and one-upsmanship. I have seen too much along those lines.

Sep. 16 2011 11:45 AM
caitlin from Brooklyn

When I was young, (grunge era), there was a lot of cutting going on, it signified emotional depth, because it was cool to be angsty... it seems less caught up with pop culture now, more fringe.

Sep. 16 2011 11:41 AM

I used to do this --I think because it made me feel like I could control something-- and also if it hurt a lot, then I couldn't feel anything but the pain of the cut. In addition I could focus on caring for the injury afterwards. I thought at the time I was the only one who did it.

Sep. 16 2011 11:40 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie,NY

Isn't this just a manifestation of mental illness?

Sep. 16 2011 11:39 AM
Marcia from NYC

There was a book written about this by a former neighbor of mine, Steve Levenkron, in 1998. This is very old news, not sure what your guest is saying is so new.

See Amazon link for his book "Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation"


Sep. 16 2011 11:37 AM
john from office

She just used the word FAG on WNYC!!!

It is the F word, not to be uttered.

This sounds like alot of nonsense, spoiled white kids.

Sep. 16 2011 11:37 AM
Glenn from Manhattan

Isn't tatooing and piercing self-mutilation by adult adolescents?

Sep. 16 2011 11:36 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

I know plenty of "people of color" and none of them are in to this stuff.

Sep. 16 2011 11:35 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Contagious? I guess contagious for those who have problems. Contagious suggests no matter what state of mind you're in you will "get" the behavior.

How much of the population is doing this?

Sep. 16 2011 11:33 AM
John from NYC

Once again, a psychological and even economic explanation.

How come medications work better than talk therapy if this is the case?

Sep. 16 2011 11:30 AM
The Truth from Becky

What evidence do you have that more "people of color" are now "doing it"?

Sep. 16 2011 11:30 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.