Wired to seek pain, and relief, in all the wrong places

Although How Pain Can Make You Feel Better may have one of the most useless closing lines in science journalism history it does offer a darn readable exploration of the current thinking on self-harm.

I, like most people, had enormous squeamishness about self-injury when I first learned about it years ago. I absolutely loathe the Hollywood depictions of it as a great punishment to the world and sign of victimhood. Now that I've come to understand it better I feel great empathy and hope for those experiencing it.

SI is treatable and no one should suffer alone with it or be shamed or avoided. Pain, regardless of cause, is pain - and we need to work with loved ones to resolve it.

The better we understand the way we're wired, and the ways we can help, the more misery we can alleviate.


  1. I see what you mean about the closing line. It's the kind of thing that would make those in my family (possibly myself included) who have these emotional reactions want to harm someone else as well as themselves. Of course it's true - but how to do it when the individual needs the pain to feel better.

  2. this is crucial to understanding anorexia for patients like me. If you read my first blog on medusa i say that for me anorexia is like cutting buy internalized. I dont eat, so that i feel hunger pains intensely enough to help me forget the emotional pain for a moment, and to give me the nostalgic high that i also will get. I find that its so hard for me to let go of this because the more I eat the more my anxiety and depression fly out of control. When i starve myself, it takes primary focus, and helps me to focus on my body more than my emotions. It also just feels good to be hungry after the emotional pain, its like a relief, like getting a tooth pulled when you have a cavity.

  3. I may be the only person in the universe to subscribe to this theory, but for me, this article and the one above about epilepsy have paralels - if mimicing the action of starvation in the brain by feeding a practically carbohydrate free diet can reduce epilepsy symptoms in some patients (i.e. stop brain circuits mis-firing), maybe that's why some people with extreme anxiety and panic find starvation soothing - it is an effective medicine - just a lethal one.

  4. Marcella - you are NOT alone - I absolutely see the same thing and find it fascinating on the same level!


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