EW: What are some of the health risks involved when someone is cutting herself?
Dr. Drew: Obviously, going a step too far: getting an infection, permanently altering your body anatomy in some way, rupturing a tendon or severing a nerve. Permanent scaring too. But, it tends to be a relatively low-risk behavior. Again, they're not trying to hurt themselves; they are trying to get a release from unpleasant emotions.
There are sort of two predominate styles of cutting. One is kids who are severely traumatized and [these kids] tend to have something we call dissociation. They kind of disconnect from their feelings; they sort of feel out of body or like the world is kind of a dream they are walking in. Or they actually black out or feel like they are hovering above their body and they get these sort of outer body experiences, and that is called dissociation. Some kids like the feeling of dissociation because it is a relief, and they will actually induce dissociation through cutting.
Others hate dissociation and try to bring themselves back by feeling something through cutting. It is kind of an interesting dichotomy in terms of who is cutting.
Kids who are addicted will frequently cut as a way of releasing endorphins. Once they stop drugs or stop sexually acting out, all of a sudden they start starving themselves and cutting. It is sort of a common syndrome we see today. Cutting, starving, sexually acting out and doing drugs—that is sort of the combo that is out there in these teens who are basically traumatized.
EW: Why are there so many traumatized kids out there?
Dr. Drew: We have a pandemic of childhood trauma. The amount of trauma is spectacular right now, and it is perpetrated at the hands of important people in those kids' lives. On the radio right now, that is all I am talking to is trauma survivors. All I treat at the hospital is trauma survivors. I just wrote a book about trauma survivors. It is the issue of our time. In trying to solve the problems of trauma, kids are gravitating toward whatever the culture offers them.
What to do if your teen is cutting