Why Do People Deliberately Injure Themselves?

Lisa’s mom noticed the cuts when Lisa was helping her with the laundry. The teenage girl told her mom it was a scratch she got from their cat. Her mom was surprised, but she did not think more about it. Lisa’s friends also noticed something strange. They are wondering why she was wearing long-sleeved shirts even when it was hot. What they did not know is that Lisa was cutting herself using a razor every time she felt upset or sad.

What is cutting?

Cutting refers to injuring oneself on purpose by making cuts or scratches on the body using a sharp object. Cutting is one of the types of self-injury. This behavior is more common in girls and usually happens in teenage years. Many boys also cut themselves and some continue this behavior into adulthood.

Why are the reasons behind this behavior?

People cut themselves to cope with upsetting relationship problems, intense pressure, and strong emotions. Cutting usually happens when a person has difficulty with feelings that they cannot bear, or when a person thinks he or she cannot change bad situations. Some people injure themselves because of the desperation for relief from terrible feelings or because they want to express very strong feelings of sorrow, rage, desperation, emptiness, or longing.

Many of those who cut themselves do not have strong coping skills. Or their coping mechanisms may be overwhelmed by very intense emotions. Sometimes, people who self-injure suffer from other mental health problems that worsen their emotional tension.

What can happen to those who self-injure?

People self-injure to get some temporary relief from a very bad feeling. However, many of them agree that cutting is not a good way to achieve that relief. The relief they get does not last. Cutting only masks the troubles that caused the cutting.

Cutting is dangerous to one’s health. Cuts can become infected if you use non-sterile instruments like scissors, pins, razors, or even any sharp edge (for example, the tab on a soda can). Cutting can also be habit forming.

How to get help

The first step to stop cutting is the hardest. You have to admit or talk about cutting. Many people who self-injure say that they are somewhat relieved after they talk about it to trusted people. It is also important to identify the troubles that trigger the cutting behavior and do something about the problem. A counselor or a therapist can help you deal with emotional pain.