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.
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.
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.
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.
Self-mutilation, often called cutting, is the practice of intentionally cutting or scratching yourself with a sharp object and breaking the skin to cause bleeding. People who cut say the pain of this self-injury gives them relief from terrible feelings they experience. However, it doesn’t help them in the long run. They are left with scars and the same problems they had at the onset.
It can be difficult to understand why anyone would want to hurt themselves to feel better. When a teen is dealing with tough emotional issues from school, home or their friends, they may feel they have no way to solve their problems. Cutting gives them a sense of control when they feel they have none. In addition, some people who cut say that the pain of the cuts themselves lets them feel something other than the negative feelings in which they feel trapped.
People who do this may also have other mental health issues. Self-mutilation is often associated with depression, but it may also be a sign of mental health problems that cause people to have trouble controlling their impulses, take unnecessary risks or even struggle with drug or alcohol abuse.
If you think your teen is having trouble coping, here are some good strategies:
- Talk it out! Communication can be the key to helping your teen through a hard time.
- Encourage them to exercise. It can help to put problems in perspective.
- Consider seeking the help of a mental health professional.
Although most people who self-injure do not wish to seriously harm themselves, sometimes they can cut too deep. If they do, they may get an infection, need stitches or even end up in the hospital. If your teen uses injuring themselves as a means of coping, it can become a compulsive behavior. The more often they do it, the more they feel they need to do it to feel better.
First and foremost, talk to your kids about the troubles they are facing. Feelings of isolation and despair only encourage negative coping behavior, like cutting. If they feel they can confide in you, this will provide an important outlet for their emotions.
If your child comes to you and tells you they are cutting, it’s important to remind them that you love them and want to help them. A mental health professional can help your child identify the underlying triggers for their behavior and together you can work to find ways to avoid those triggers.