The Cruelest Cut

Often it's the one teens inflict on themselves. Why are so many American kids secretly self-mutilating?

Vanessa's arms no longer show the damage she once did to them. That's saying something, given that the damage was considerable. The college freshman, 19, started with just a few scratches from a sharp piece of plastic. Later came the razor blades and then the kitchen knives. After a time, she took to wearing bracelets to cover her injuries; when that wasn't enough, she began cutting less conspicuous parts of her body. "I was very creative," she says, with a smile.

Vanessa needn't be so clever anymore. In the past 18 months, she has cut herself only once. She was pleased...

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