Cutting / Self-Mutilation

Cutting is injuring yourself on purpose—by scratching or cutting your body with a sharp object—breaking the skin and causing bleeding. It is a type of self-injury or self-mutilation. Often people cut themselves on their wrists, arms, legs and even their stomachs. Some people self-injure by burning their skin with the end of a cigarette or lighted match.

When cuts or burns from self-injury heal, they often leave scars and marks, which the cutter may cover so no one else knows what they are doing to themselves.


Why Do People Cut?

Understanding why people cut can be difficult. Those who cut themselves are often trying to cope with pressures, relationship problems, emotions they can’t get a hold of or traumatic experiences.

When an individual doesn’t know how to express emotions in a healthy way, tension can build up. Cutting may be an attempt to relieve that tension. It’s basically a harmful way to feel in control.

Better ways to cope:

  • It can help to put tough situations or strong emotions in perspective by talking problems over with parents, other adults or friends.
  • Getting plenty of exercise and engaging in activities can also help put problems in perspective.
  • A mental health professional can help people cope with these troubles and stresses.

Sometimes, people who cut or self-mutilate may have other mental health challenges that contribute to their emotional tension. Cutting may be associated with depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviors in some instances. It may also be a sign of mental health problems that cause people to have trouble controlling their impulses or to take unnecessary risks.

What Can Cutting do to People?

Although cutting is generally done without the intention of hurting oneself seriously, cuts can go deeper than intended and lead to a need for stitches, serious infection and even hospitalization in serious cases.

Most people don’t want to continue cutting, but it often becomes a habit. It can even become a compulsive behavior, meaning that the more a person does it, the more he or she feels the need to do it.

Getting Help

It’s important to seek help so talk with someone you trust. Try to identify the underlying triggers that lead to your cutting. A mental health professional can help identify these triggers so don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you find a therapist or counselor, you’ll be able to work through your feelings of deep emotional pain or distress.