A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain

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9780140280531: A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain

Self-mutilation is a behavior so shocking that it is almost never discussed. Yet estimates are that upwards of eight million Americans are chronic self-injurers. They are people who use knives, razor blades, or broken glass to cut themselves. Their numbers include the actor Johnny Depp, Girl Interrupted author Susanna Kaysen, and the late Princess Diana.Mistakenly viewed as suicide attempts or senseless masochism--even by many health professionals--"cutting" is actually a complex means of coping with emotional pain. Marilee Strong explores this hidden epidemic through case studies, startling new research from psychologists, trauma experts, and neuroscientists, and the heartbreaking insights of cutters themselves--who range from troubled teenagers to middle-age professionals to grandparents. Strong explains what factors lead to self-mutilation, why cutting helps people manage overwhelming fear and anxiety, and how cutters can heal both their internal and external wounds and break the self-destructive cycle. A Bright Red Scream is a groundbreaking, essential resource for victims of self-mutilation, their families, teachers, doctors, and therapists.

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Review:

"A bright red scream" is how one of the subjects Marilee Strong interviews in this chilling yet compassionate study of self-mutilation describes the sensation of intentionally inflicting pain upon oneself. It is a compulsion that, while shocking and bewildering to most people, affects 2 million or more Americans and countless others around the globe--one of whom, the late Princess Diana, also suffered from the eating disorders that characterize between 35 to 80 percent of all cutters. Rejecting the classic psychiatric wisdom that views self-mutilation as a species of suicidal behavior, Strong links the phenomenon instead to the will to live--often in the face of such overwhelming childhood abuse that the resulting dissociative behaviors are something akin to posttraumatic stress disorder. Strong touches on other issues as well: Why are most cutters women? And is the current fascination with tattooing and piercing, from its most extreme forms in the "alternative" culture to its growing mainstream acceptance, a sublimation of the cutters' instinct? Through interviews with more than 50 self-injurers, Strong tells the moving story not only of their rage and self-punishment, but also of the courageous journey towards reintegration. (The book also contains an introduction by psychiatrist Armando R. Favazza, author of Bodies Under Seige, one of the leading clinical experts on self-mutilation.) --Patrizia DiLucchio

From the Back Cover:

Meet Daphne, age sixteen. There are times when she hurts so bad, "too deep for tears", that she must shed her own blood to "let out some of the hurt". There's Annie, a woman who stopped injuring herself years ago but admits that she would cut again because she loves her scars too much, loves the control they give her over her own body. And Lukas, a forty-three-year old lawyer, describes the powerful, soothing rush he gets from his self-induced wounds: "The feeling I get when the blood comes out is better than anything. It's better than drinking, it's better than any drug I've ever taken, it's better than sex".

Why do some people need to inflict pain on themselves? At least two million Americans, and millions more worldwide, are cutters -- notably, the late Princess Diana. Yet, the reasons behind the need to self-mutilate are profoundly complex and largely misunderstood. Marilee Strong shatters the stereotypes and dispels the myths surrounding the phenomenon of self-mutilation and gets to the heart of the matter by way of her subjects. The voices of cutters themselves, combined with Strong's own astute observations, make for an unparalleled exploration of the disorder that has been called the "addiction of the nineties".

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