Understanding Cutting

By Stacey Coleman, LCPC

There are many misconceptions concerning cutting behavior. This article will help you to better understand what cutting is, why individuals cut, warning signs of cutting, and ways to help.

Cutting is a common form of self-injurious behavior. Typically, cutting is not intended as a suicide attempt, nor is it an indication that an individual is suicidal. More often, individuals cut to express feelings that they cannot put into words, release emotional pain, and/or make the individual feel something instead of feeling numb. Individuals may also cut to feel as though they have control over their emotions or their lives. Sometimes individuals use cutting as a way to punish themselves or to relieve guilt. In some cases cutting can be linked to certain mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders, depression, bi-polar disorder, eating disorders, and borderline personality disorder. It has also been linked to individuals who have been sexually, physically, and/or emotionally abused.

When an individual cuts, endorphins are released that help that person feel better and/or obtain relief. That relief, however, is only temporary which can cause an individual to cut again to achieve that same level of relief. The brain makes the connection that the relief is due to the act of cutting and craves it again when tension builds. This ultimately leads the individual to cut more often and make more cuts each time they engage in the behavior. The more an individual cuts, the greater the risk becomes of serious unintentional injury. It is easy to misjudge the depth of the cuts which can result in infection and/or the need for stitches.

Cutting behavior is sometimes hard to detect because clothing can hide cuts and feelings can be covered up.

Here are some warning signs to look for:

Here are some coping tips if you cut:

Here are some tips if you know or suspect someone you care about is cutting:

If you or someone you know is struggling with cutting, you are not alone. Arbor Counseling Center is here to help. Call (847) 913-0393 today and make an appointment with one of our specially trained therapists. We can provide information, support, and appropriate strategies for managing and coping with the feelings that accompany cutting.