Let's Deal with Cutting

Cutting is purposely making scratches or cuts on the body with an object – enough to break the skin and make it bleed. It is a type of self-injury. Cutting is a type of self-injury that often starts in the teen years. Teens may cut themselves on their wrists, arms, legs, hips, or stomachs.

Most teens that cut are not attempting suicide – it is usually an attempt to feel better. Although some people who cut attempt suicide, the attempts are usually due to the problems and pain that lie behind the desire to self-harm, not the cutting itself.

The reason teens cut can be hard to understand. They may be trying to cope with intense pressure, pain of some sort, or they could be dealing with feelings that seem too difficult to bear. Some teens cut because they want relief from feelings of sadness, rejection, or emptiness and do not know how else to deal with them.

Cutting may provide temporary relief from these feelings, but the underlying problem is that the reason for cutting still exists. Cutting does not solve the issue but instead only masks the problems and can lead to several other complications.

Cutting can become a compulsive behavior – the more one does it, the more he or she feels the need to do it. It is also possible to misjudge the depth of a cut, making it so deep that it requires stiches. Cuts can also become infected if a person uses a non-sterile instrument.

If you engage in cutting, know that there are healthier ways to deal with troubles than cutting. The first step is to get help with the troubles that led to the cutting. People who have stopped cutting say that after they open up about their feelings, they often feel a great sense of relief. Reach out to a trusted adult and open up. If it is too tough to talk about, try writing a note.

Second, identify what’s triggering the cutting. Cutting is a response to tension and pain in your life. Try to figure out what is causing that and ways you can cope with it. This can be tough – consider speaking with a therapist of a counselor to help.

Third, tell someone that you want help dealing with your troubles and the cutting. If the person you ask doesn't help you get the assistance you need, ask someone else. Sometimes adults try to downplay the problems teens have or think they're just a phase. If you feel like this is happening to you, keep telling someone until you get the help you want.

Finally, speak with a mental health professional. These professionals are trained to help teens cope with pain and distress and can help sort through feelings. They can also show you better ways to deal with these stresses. If you need help finding a mental health professional, start with your school counselor or social worker or family doctor.

For additional informational resources on cutting, visit Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Website.