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May 2

Why Do People Cut Themselves?

Posted on Monday, May 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

“My friend cuts.” “Our daughter cuts.” “My son cuts.” “I cannot understand why. It’s so disgusting!”

There are many methods to self-injure.  I’ll not list them all.  I’ll use “cutting” as a synonym for all forms of self-injury.

There are reasons people self-injure, I’ll mention one.  Most people that I know would say that they began cutting as way to “relieve the pain”.

While I remember glorying in my wounds and trying to get attention for damage that I caused myself, most “cutters” do not cut to get attention.  Contrary to any preconceived notions you may have cutting is seldom a reflecting of suicidal thoughts.  Instead, the cuts reflect intense emotional pain. Pain that seems uncontrollable.

Cutting for many cutters becomes an addictive method to control pain.  Many teens have told me that “it’s the only way I know how to deal with the pain.”

Common Feelings

Cutters typically feel inadequate, guilty, lonely and insignificant, and afraid. Many live in constant fear.

They feel inadequate to cope with life’s challenges.

They feel guilty knowing that in some way somehow they are letting someone down.

They feel lonely because feelings they battle, lies that they believe, and choices they make convince them to hide their real identity.

Cutters feel afraid that the feelings, lies, and choices they make will lead to harmful consequences. The cuts are not the harm they fear.  The harm they fear is much deeper than the pain their inflict on their body.

Common [Mis] Beliefs

Cutters fear emotional pain and consequences that they believe have great power in their lives.

“If you knew what I was feeling you would not understand me.  Worse yet, you would despise me.”

“If you knew what I believe you would think I’m stupid. Worse yet, you wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore.”

“If you knew what I’ve done you would know that I’m right and you would hate me too.”

Fortunately, most “cutters” I’ve met find cutting helps them cope.  They are typically neither suicidal nor intentionally “self-destructive” they seek hopeful solutions to their pain.

Though they may have suicidal thoughts, they want to live.

My Concern

My concern is not that their lives are threatened.  I am concerned how that they will view themselves as they age and mature.

The irony as my friend Tim has pointed out is that he saw cutting himself as way to temporarily watch your problems bleed out.  They “run out and you can just like wash them or wipe them away.”

It’s like all pain-reducing behaviors there is sometimes a short-term benefit with a long-term consequence.  While in the short-term they are turning emotional pain into physical pain, for those who self-injure enough to leave scars there is a lasting reminder of the pain they’ve experience long after they might normally have forgotten it.

The blood might have been wiped away but the scars may remain.

Will they be able to use their scars to help others heal like my friend Heather does, “while I am not proud of them I know that I can understand where other cutters come from and how they feel. I have learned that talking about that period of my life helps others understand that they are not alone.

Or will their scars cause them shame that defeats them?

My concern, mysilentscream.

Bring on the comments

  1. I understand Though I do not cut I use other methods control the pain I write
    Writing it down ripping it and burning it makes it for me
    Feel as if it’s a new beginning of a new day a new life not a scare remains to be seen only ash of what used to be the pain

    Parents of “cutters” underestimate that perhaps pushing isn’t the answer show your love and support and it may make them feel like they are worth something again

    Many forever lasting scars are on everyone who lives every smile creates a wrinkle of the pain they had to go through to get to the point of that happy action

    Every tear is shed for the loss of someone something memories wanted to be forgotten

    Though people may say I don’t understand I do even if it may not see so at first

    Love must be provided for one and all they must feel it to believe it that’s why they “cut” in order to FEEL the pain as it burns and stings then subsides into a dull ache Thus creating the dream that the pain does indeed go away with the physical creation of it when in fact it just burries it deeper the only thing that can stop a fire is water
    It may be cliché but if you fight fire(inside pain) with fire(physical pain) your only going to hurt yourself more

    If you are a “cutter” know this
    You are loved, you will always be loved.
    Look around you at this moment and notice who and what your surroundings are your surrounded by love your incased in it my dear every single one of you are!

    Friends are like a second family and sometimes you can trust them more then your parents:) they are your pillows and springs and matterases and blankets to catch you when you fall then bounce you right back up again:D

    You are loved believe it and hold on tight only you can end the fight against yourself:) others are just there to guid you

    I may be 14 🙂 but I can look deeper then the lines that no one can see

  2. Thank you jean for your compassionate concern for cutters.
    Thank you also for your suggestion and practice of coping with stress using paper.


  3. Your welcome Scott People are loved even if they can see it
    Some think it would be better to end it because cutting may not work for them anymore but they need to think of the future what children they could have what wonderful things they could create build
    Silver lining is in everything no matter what it is but self injury may work now but try turning to a friend and if they have the same problem work it out together

    That’s what friendship is for stick together no matter what:)
    Hope to see you soon Scott:)

  4. Paper or music
    Music soothes the mighty lion simply allow help and it will be given Ask for it too:)
    People need to be loved we need it it’s nessisary
    It’s built into our design.
    Family Is anyone who cares about you they don’t have to be blood related
    “Cutters” of the world you love and are love never forget
    We all love you even if you don’t think so:)

  5. “We all love you even if you don’t think so…”

    So true Jean!
    The anthem of all caring parents and friends!

  6. “…but they need to think of the future…”

    I agree.
    I think it’s our responsibility — when the time is appropriate — to remind others that we want to share their future.
    Like “I want you to befriend my kids when they need someone to talk to other than me.”

  7. it is our responsibility but friends shouldnt be asked to become friends by parents it usually happens within the childs mind
    when we are older aka 5th grade and up we just “happen” to become friends
    when we are young we ask “do you wanna be my friend”
    friends need to be created within the childs mind it is okk for an adult to ask that of another adult but let kids be kids and do it for each other not told to do it

    a best friend is something that is like no matter what the problem you can turn to them and help them out and the other way around is true too

    cutters simply feel alone.. unimportant.. unloved.. uncared for but i mean HONESTLY! I WATCHED that interview if you have friends that see what your doing and hit you for doing it then they do care they WANT you to STOP sometimes people want you too and they try to help in every way in their power but if the person doesnt want to accept help or try to meet them half way… no matter what they do it will never help…

    NEVER forget that people care or they wouldnt spend the time to help you up when you fall or hit you for cutting:) we care i swear it on my life we do!!:)

  8. Far too often people feel “alone.. unimportant.. unloved.. uncared for”, but that’s what family and friends and communities like churches and synagogues and TreeHouses were meant to provide. Hopefully we’ll be part of the solution far more often than part of the problem.

  9. […] Teen is cutting or other self-injurious behaviors. The teen might be seeking to manage her emotional pain. […]

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