Understanding Cutting

Written by Dena Yohe

My daughter cut herself for the first time when she was 12 years old. Today, 11 years later, she is still struggling to overcome this problem. At the time I knew absolutely nothing about “self-harm” and it scared me to death. I was shocked and bewildered that she would do such a thing. It’s important to understand cutting – what it is, who does it, why people do it, and how to get help for you or a friend to stop hurting inside and out.

What is cutting?

Cutting is when someone takes something sharp, like a razor, knife, scissors or piece of glass, and runs it along a part of their body, usually to the point of bleeding or bruising. Most cuts are made on arms, wrists and legs. Sometimes, people cut their chest, stomach, face, neck, breasts or genitals. Cutting on the arms and wrists is the most common because it’s often easier to make up excuses for marks on these parts of the body, something like “My cat scratched me,” or “I had an accident in the kitchen.”

Cutting is a form of self-injury, self-harm or self-mutilation. Some people also call it slashing or slicing.
Besides cutting, people may hurt themselves in other ways, including scratching, burning, picking at wounds, hair pulling, punching or head butting. People cut to deal with difficult problems or feelings they cannot verbally express.

Who cuts and why?

About two million people in the U.S. hurt themselves in some way. Most are teenagers or young adults, and they’re from all races and backgrounds. They often wear clothing like long pants or shirts to hide their cutting, even in warm weather.

For most people, it’s hard to understand why anyone would intentionally hurt themselves. But, for those who cut, there are a few common reasons:

  • emotional pain they can’t put into words
  • to gain a sense of control when other things in their life are out of control
  • to punish themselves for troubling thoughts or acts.
  • some find the act soothing
  • to get a reaction from other people.

No matter the reason, cutting is a serious, dangerous behavior, and may be a sign of another problem.
Many people who cut themselves also have an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. Some may be experiencing depression. Others may have been sexually or physically abused.

Is cutting a suicide attempt?

Usually, people who cut aren’t trying to kill themselves. At the same time, cutting can be life-threatening. In fact, sometimes, people can’t control the injury and die accidentally.
If you or someone you know is thinking about killing themselves, contact 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) immediately or contact befrienders.org from anywhere in the world to talk to a crisis center in your area. Suicide is never the answer to your problems.

You can also tell them about this site: myspace.com/towriteloveonherarms This non-profit is about bringing awareness, hope, encouragement and community to those who struggle with self-harm, depression and suicide (as well as addictions). They also raise money to help support programs that are addressing these issues. They gave away over a million dollars in 2009! My daughter’s story was the inspiration behind this global movement of love and hope. You can read her story by going to the myspace address above, then scrolling down and clicking on “read the story here” in the right hand column. (I apologize, there is profanity in the story)

How can I help a friend with this?

If you have suspicions, go ahead and ask them about it. Friends with cutting problems are often glad to be able talk about it. If you bring it up and this person isn’t self-injuring, it won’t start just because you said something about it. If they leave their wounds uncovered so that you can see them, they want you to ask them about it. Offer options but don’t tell your friend what to do. If someone’s using cutting or some other kind of self-injury as a way to feel in control, it won’t help if you try to take control of the situation. Helping someone see ways to get help – like talking to a parent, pastor, teacher, school counselor or mental health professional- may be the best thing you can do.

Educate yourself on the issue. Two helpful websites for both the person who is struggling with cutting, as well as their family and friends are: selfinjury.com and selfmutilatorsanonymous.org They even have online support group meetings. A few good books are Inside a Cutter’s Mind: Understanding and Helping Those Who Self-Injure by Jerusha Clark and Dr. Earl Henslin, Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program For Self-Injurers by Karen Conterio and Wendy Lader, Ph.D. and A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain by Marilee Strong. There are many others on Amazon.

Seek support for yourself, too. Knowing a friend who is going through this can be frightening and stressful. Consider talking to someone else you trust. And remember, even if you don’t want to share your friend’s secret, you can still talk to a mental health professional about how it is affecting you. Remember, you’re not responsible for ending your friend’s self-abuse. You can’t force someone to stop or to get help from a professional. You can’t fix them or change them, but what you can do, always, is keep being a trustworthy, caring friend. Just asking about it and encouraging them to seek help shows them someone cares. It may be exactly what they need to take the next step.

How can I help myself?

Talk to someone you trust. Maybe it’s a parent or a good friend, a pastor, youth worker or a school counselor. Tell them you’re cutting yourself, and want to stop. Ask them to help you find help. Know that you may get some tough reactions like denial or sadness or anger, but that will pass. If you’re not comfortable with that, contact a local mental health group or a hotline in your area. There is a lot of help available and this can be overcome.

Cutting isn’t something to deal with on your own. There are therapists and support groups who can help you work through what makes you cut. Even if you’re nervous about getting help, take this step, because NOW is the best time to do it. If you wait, the problem will only get bigger and harder to hide. You can stop cutting!

My daughter says in her book Purpose for the Pain, “I didn’t do this of my own accord, I am not that strong. God has carried me . . . It was hard work getting to this point (in recovery 6 months) . . . but it happened, and it can happen for anyone who wants it. This isn’t my story. This is God’s story of redemption . . . how beautiful is that?”

If you would like to talk to someone privately we have mentors available by email.  All you need to do is use this form to send in a question. We will match you with a mentor who will respond in email, usually within a couple of days. You can email back and forth with your mentor as long as you like. The conversation is private and there is never a fee.

Take a look at your life. How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times. There are things we dream of doing one day, there are things we wish we could forget. In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new. What would your life look like if you could start over with a clean slate?

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.

Is this the life for you?

If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.

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119 Responses to “Understanding Cutting”

  • Shelley Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    I am sorry Krissy about Your life and am glad that You are on your own, but just remember that the Lord God is with you everyday and that he loves you very much and knows all about you, because he loves you.

  • krissy says:

    Jamie
    What has jesus done for me. Took away my baby brothers sisters my real mother. Left me in a frickin house where u cant trust no one. Im tiref of having god shoved down my throat. WHERE WAS HE WHEN I WAS IN THE HOSPITAL CAUSE I COULDNT EAT WHERE WAS HE WHEN MY SIBLINGS DIED NOT WITH THEM THATS FOR DAMN SURE, he wasmt there whenI was banned from even seeing or talkimg with remaining brothers before the marines amd Ir force rook them
    who do I trust. Quite frankly no one cause they tell the people I dont want knowing
    I think im doing pretty well on my owm so far
    what does cutting do?
    it clears my head numbs the bad feelings so I can be the parent to my step mom and dad and my cutting friends, helps me from punching the kids who cause me to cry every day in the damn bathrooms at the tech school and high school I go tl

  • Chris Chris says:

    Karen obrien…i am sorry to hear the news about your two sons. being a Young person today in a society that isnt as Christian as it once was is going to be challenging for our youth and for the parents. helping the younger generation not repeat our mistakes is key for them to live happier lives. the book of proverbs is filled too with practical wisdom on how to deal with problems they are facing even today. one mistake so many Young people make is feeling they need a girlfriend in high school years because most others seek for that and yet they are simply asking for emotional trouble since the maturity factor isnt present to sustain a mature relationship and its simply not Gods time for that. encourage your younger son to obstain from seeking a girlfriend and waiting for his adult years for christ to bring him his mate. meantime encourage him also to be in a youth group at a Christian church where he can have emotional and spiritual support for his life. settingcaptivesfree.com has a course to help with cutting called…in his image. you can check that out too to help your son as you dedícate yourself to prayer and fasting as you can on his behalf. its never too late to bring offspring before the throne of grace and glory of jesus christ in faith as hebrews 4.14 to 16 says we can. can you see how you can break any tendency your sons may be duplicating from your youth? its important that we do that by faith in jesus and his promises for our children. prov 22.6 confirms that by teaching a child in the way he should go that when he is older he wont depart from it. . .i pray now the great shepherd of the sheep, jesus christ, mold, perfect, heal and save totally your sons and family so that you all can rejoice in Gods goodness and grace to live happily in the God of our salvation by living wholely within the precepts he teaches us to live in jesus name amen! if you would like more attention on your issues just click…talk to a mentor…at the top of this web page. blessings!

  • Karen Obrien says:

    My sixteen year old son has been cutting, im worried cause he recently came out, . First off we are Christian, so this issue was hard for for us, but I love my son regardless of his preference. But I raised him christian and he knows the bible and god..
    Im just broken for him. I understand why he does it but , I struggle cause my child years, adolescents was so much worse and at times I thought I wouldnt survive the pain or loneliness but it made me tough. But we talk about almost anything. He tells me things I wish he wouldnt but im glad he comes to me. I explained to him that being a teen is hard enough even more so now a days. They are exspected to grow up so fast. And serious relationships our hard and confusing enough as a teen , believe me I know . At 16 I met my high school sweetheart, at 18 , 2 weeks after I graduated I was pregnant. And when our son was 7 months the father went to Folsom prison for 2 years. And I could go on.
    My 20 year old son tried to commit suicide 6 months ago , was incubated, and un conscious for 2 days. Ive been with my husband since my eldest was 2 we have given them a nice loving , practical life. The worst was three years ago when economy put a hardship on our family. And besides a job here or there we have struggled but there fed clothed and unconditionally loved. More than they know. My 16 yr old says he is greatful for having us as parents, his friend tell me they hear good things about me from my son. Im extremely close with my three boys. Ive tried to give them what I didnt have.
    What am I doing wrong. Are family is nowhere perfect . But we are closer than alot of families I know. He has talked to a counsler. What else can I do. Kids cut when I was in school. But they did it for reasons , id probably cut for too. I did it twice when I was date raped at 14. But that was it. I never told anybody. I made it through. Any suggestions.

  • Chris Chris says:

    Philip…you might refer your friend to settingcaptivesfree.com and their course, HIS IMAGE, to help with overcoming the desire to cut. we pray in jesus name above all, that his grace comes to your friend and gives him or her freedom from not only the cutting but whatever problem he or she has that is causing such frutsration and anxiety at this time in jesus name amen

  • Philip Holshouser says:

    Hi my name is Philip…
    I myself am not cutting but a person I care about is and I want to know how to help…
    I am a junior firefighter and have run calls and seen people in pain but that was external pain… I Know Jesus said help the least of these but I don’t really know how to help…

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Krissy, I can see you have a lot of pressures on you. It must be really hard to keep calm with all the other things swirling around you like that. There have been a lot of resources shared that could be helpful to give you some perspective on your life right now (one story from the site that Chris referred you to that I find really encouraging is http://powertochange.com/iamsecond/something-to-live-for).

    Are there people in your life that you talk to about this, or that you could talk to? Any trusted teachers or school counselor who you would feel alright about talking to?

    You talked about being a ‘good Christian girl’. What do you mean by that? How would you describe the impact that Jesus had on your life back then?

    How do you feel about your cutting? In what ways does it help/hinder you in life?

    I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to pray for you. I have found in my life that when I talk to God He does help guide me. I am sure that you will find that true for yourself as well.

    Dear Jesus, I pray for Krissy. Thank You for the sensitive heart that you have given her, how she feels things so deeply. I know that can be hard to handle when there is so much pain and confusion around, but at the same time it makes her such a warm person to be around. She needs You help Lord to know what to do with those emotions that she has and how to keep from hurting herself to quiet down the things she feels so deeply. Bring people around her who can support, care and encourage her. I pray that she would find You to be a big part of that help and comfort. Guard her from seriously hurting herself. Amen.

    I look forward to hearing back from you Krissy.

  • Chris Chris says:

    krissy…perhaps if you check out iamsecond.com, you might find some video-testimonies to help you with your personal issues, knowing that others have and are going through similar circumstances. jesus bless you. he loves you!

  • krissy says:

    Mrs/ms Kate
    I havent and my phone is currently in the shop cause I threw it at my mother for insisiting that I pretend to be another girl text my brothers girlfriend amd break them up and then got screamed at for telling her off. Then had my door taken away for disrespect. This explains why I am the wack job I am.

  • Kate Kate says:

    Hi Krissy, maybe you got a chance to check out the Door of Hope 4 Teens website?

  • Donna says:

    FYI: Door of hope 4 teens is a free texting hotline that provides support no matter where you live in the USA and Canada
    visit the site for more info and the hours they are open http://www.doorofhope4teens.org

  • krissy says:

    Dear mrs/ms. Kate
    I will try. No promises. Got caught cutting by mom and grandpa and they were clam/calm I on the other hand was bleeding and wanted to party. And indeed I partied

  • Kate Kate says:

    Hi Krissy,

    I wonder if you can imagine seeing things from a different perspective. For example, if you were talking to an 8-year old kid who was having feelings like yours, what advice might you give the kid? Or if you imagine yourself as a kind old grandmother, what would the grandmother say?

    If you can separate yourself from your very real, very intense feelings for a few minutes, maybe you can get some relief. The thing is, we face many very real, very terrible situations and circumstances. Coping with everything is really very difficult. The deeper we are in the situation, the harder it can feel to pull ourselves out. It feels like we are stuck in a deep well. Maybe imagining ourselves outside the situation can help === pretend you are the helper, instead of the one trapped. As the helper, what ideas or solutions or things can you try, instead of feeling completely stuck?

    Another thing that I find useful is closing my eyes to picture God in my situation. I remember one time I was freaking out, totally furious, ready to do something violent or terrible…. and I stopped myself for a second, took a breath, and then asked myself “Where is God at this moment?” Then I had a picture in my mind that God was with me, that He was holding me in the palm of His hand, that His face looked kind and caring, that He cared about me. It wasn’t like everything got fixed or there was some big miracle around me, but I was calmed down. Maybe you know what I mean.

    Sincerely,
    Kate

  • krissy says:

    Usy but seriously im dying here

  • krissy says:

    I can honestly say that if jesus is real I know yer b

  • Chris Chris Landwerlen says:

    krissy…jesus can be your best friend in any and all situations. he has proved his friendship to me for 40 years and has never failed me yet! blessings!

  • krissy says:

    Should I even try? Its not going to stop the destruction, I literally stood at the bridge thinking about jumping, but fortunately a dog walkers dogs grabbed my attention. But next timw im out and as always alone whats going to stop me from ending it all

  • Chris Chris Landwerlen says:

    krissy…you might check some online churches…lifechurch.tv, glorystone.tv, onlinechurch.com. blessings!

  • krissy says:

    None the less my view of the church wont change unless there is an act of god. Totally and compeletely bitter amd angry over this.

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