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Date of last update: 8/24/2017.

Forum Name: Psychiatric Topics

Question: scratching and being upset

 ksharnas - Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:53 pm

I used to cut whenever I got really down. Everytime I get upset I feel like I must. But because I have a bf who tried to commit suicide before and is diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar disorder I do not cut anymore. Now whenever I get upset or we fight and a problem is not fixed or continues and I feel like I cant change it I jump and itch all over. Its like I have bugs on me, thats how I act. I know it sounds stupid but I cant understand?
Is there something wrong with me?
 Dr. E. Seigle - Fri Apr 17, 2009 8:51 am

Hi ksharnas,

Often, people who cut themselves when they are upset, and are doing this to cope with intolerable feelings, but not trying to commit suicide, are people who haven't had the chance to learn skills to cope with painful feelings, such as feeling rejected, hurt, ashamed, guilty, sad, lonely, and many others. The cutting becomes a way to "let out" the painful feelings, or it serves as a distraction, a self-punishment, a physical replacement for the feeling, or other mechanisms of dealing with emotional pain. Sometimes, people who have developed this coping mechanism have had some painful childhood experiences that they haven't really dealt with, for example by talking about them in psychotherapy.

I would speculate that when you stopped using cutting as a way to cope with painful feelings when you began your relatioship with your boyfriend, your emotions, needing a way to be expressed, got channeled into this coping mechanism of jumping and itching. I'm sure that you didn't plan this way of coping, but rather just "fell" into it; it may have seemed to have happen on its own.

I would ask if your itching is accompanied by any rash, hives, swelling, or redness. That can happen, much like an allergic rash.

Have you considered seeing a mental health professional who treats people with psychotherapy, such as a psychologist, social worker, mental health counselor, or psychiatrist (latter can also prescribe medication when appropriate)? This may help you to learn safe, healthy ways of dealing with your painful feeling-states, and reduce the necessity of the "jumping-itching" coping mechanism. Are you comfortable with responding with "jumping-itching", or would you prefer to respond in a different way?

Thanks for bringing up this very important and personal issue here. We all benefit by your sharing this.

-E. Seigle MD

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