Self injury a mortal sin? (also, anorexia.)

So, I’ve been struggling with depression for a long time, and self injury since my freshman year of high school. Obviously I know that my body was made by God and it’s only on loan for now, and hurting it is an insult to God and His works.

However, why is self-injury listed under the Fifth Commandment as a mortal sin?

It isn’t called “non-suicidal self injury” for nothing. For some self-injurers, it’s more toward staying alive than the alternative. I know it’s kept me from doing really stupid things before. (not that self injuring is ever a good thing, but I’m alive, and that might not have been the case at some points in my life had I not had the coping mechanism.)

Also. How in the world is Anorexia listed as a mortal sin as well? It’s a serious mental illness and the anorexics who do it “for vanity” are in the extreme minority, and are likely just dieting and choose to make light of the serious mental illnesses that all eating disorders are.

Seek out a good Catholic Therapist (I saw a site before something like Catholictherapists) and seek a Priest for spiritual counsel and help. And if your young - you may need to involve your parents…

Know that Jesus is the *Good Shepherd *and he loves you

The site you linked to and referenced in your post is not an authentic Catholic site. He has things listed there that are not in line with official Church teaching. Please stay away from that site and go with the advice BookCat gave you.

Self injury is certainly grave matter although mental illness may mitigate consent.

If you deal with this compulsion, please see a professional counselor.

The site you linked to and referenced in your post is not an authentic Catholic site. He has things listed there that are not in line with official Church teaching. Please stay away from that site and go with the advice BookCat and Paul have given you.

This thread is not me asking for help with my own problems, it’s me asking for clarification about a fine point of a denomination I am not a part of. My parents are well involved and I was in therapy for over a year when they found out about both issues.

Okay, then let’s try this again: The site you linked to and referenced in your post is not an authentic Catholic site.

As far as your concern about cutting/self-injury and anorexia being a sin…these are things that fall under mental illness and depression- neither of which are a sin.

Personal culpability for such needs to be addressed personally --hence the advice to discuss with a Priest as well.

If I without any such difficulty started seriously harming myself --yes that can be a mortal sin (with the needed knowledge and consent).

When it comes to judging the culpability (moral guilt) of a person who struggles with a disorder that brings them to do such - that can be a different matter - for a person may not have the needed freedom for such (and thus guilt is lessened if there is any or even removed)

PS in general regarding find out what the Catholic Church teaches - I would suggest going to material on this main site or the Catechism or the like (I do not know that the other “personal” site is representing what we profess and teach etc per se --I have not examined it all).

Strictly within the field of treating mental illness and eating disorders, a person will have a very hard time defending the position that all culpability is removed from the person. If eating disorders are entirely genetic, then why are such a disproportionate # of cases in the West? Why relatively so few anorexic people in the Muslim world? Diagnosis of depression can be easy to miss, but anorexia far less so. Overwhelming evidence says that while anorexia is most certainly somewhat genetic, the culture of vanity is heavily instigating and inflaming it.

Each person may have different crosses to bear in life, and you cannot treat a person afflicted with certain disorders the same as a more healthy person. Whatever you do, do not concern yourself about comparing yourself to the person next to you. That has zero benefit. Pray to God and never stop fighting the disordered urges within you; get treatment and do whatever you have to do to stay healthy. God understands your situation entirely and He loves you beyond all understanding. You will be remade as an imperishable goddess, radiant and spotless in mind, body and soul, and all of this will be forgotten.

I wrote my thesis on this topic, although the research, both clinical and theological, is still in fairly infant stages. Non-suicidal self-injury and anorexia are no longer treated as the same illness, although they were until very recently. However, from a theological standpoint both have the distinction of doing exactly what all sins do: separating us from the love of God.

It has been correctly stated already that mental illness, which generally covers both of these issues, is a mitigating factor in calling either of them sins. One could argue that neither is a mortal sin because one who is mentally ill, to whatever degree, lacks sufficient self-reflection on the issue at hand- one of the three criteria to determine mortal sin. However, that does not mean there is no culpability, only that the person who later in treatment becomes aware that their past action was sinful is not on the hook, as it were, for a host of mortal sins which they had not reflected upon at the time of action. That said, these actions would still comprise venial sins and should be dealt with in confession and in dialogue with a priest knowledgeable about the situation.

A distinction not yet made is between clinical cutters and anorexics (please forgive my term if it is brash) and those who self-injure or appear anorexic due to a variety of things but for which those actions are merely symptoms. This second category would be called “social injurers.” This category has far more culpability because the actions are not the result of mental illness and are not mental illnesses in their own right. Rather, social injurers undertake their injury for attention or, in the case of anorexia, social pressure. It can be argued that their culpability is far higher since they do reflect on their action, choosing to do it in the face of peer pressure or social ideology and not for some reason which would amount to mental illness.

CCC 1004 In expectation of that day, the believer’s body and soul already participate in the dignity of belonging to Christ. This dignity entails the demand that he should treat with respect his own body, but also the body of every other person, especially the suffering:

The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? . . . You are not your own; . . . So glorify God in your body.

CCC 364 The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:
Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather** he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor** since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.

An interesting aside regarding this issue is that there are a surprising number of saints throughout time who have self-injured, although as a means of penitence. The best that I could conclude was that these saints are culpable of a venial sin because they were still harming their bodies, regardless of whether they were under spiritual direction or were intending to grow closer to God. Self-mortification has a limit, and it falls well short of fasting to the point of anorexic-like behavior or whipping oneself to a scarred mess.

I’m going to say that that list is flat out wrong. Eating disoders are illnesses. In fact they have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. They are linked with depression and impulse control (OCD). If anorexia is a sin, than so is the flu.

Only clinical anorexia is a mental illness. There is starving oneself for vanity’s sake, which could be sinful and gravely so depending upon one’s reflection. Self-injury is also a mental illness, but not all cases of either self-injury or anorexia are clinical illnesses and there can be some culpability there.

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