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.


174 Responses to “Understanding Cutting”

  • LeAnn says:

    Hi. I am new here and have an 18 year old son who has been cutting for about 2 years. We are a Christian family and this is literally tearing us all apart. I’ve been trying to learn all I can about cutting, but as his mom, I am beside myself. He cut himself so deep last week, we thought he needed stitches. He doesn’t want to talk to us about it, he has stopped going to church, saying he “needs a break.”

    Can someone please help me out here? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to say. He refuses help. I really would appreciate any advice. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

  • Alfred says:

    Yes, Mugwort, those are common reasons. May I ask for permission to focus away from the problem, and look at the answer to the hurt and emotional pain we humans often feel?
    Jesus came to earth, endured all temptations, hurts and pains that we could ever face! The first Adam sinned (and the punishment for that was death); the second Adam, Jesus, paid the price for all those sins of mankind (and died in our place). Relief has come, we’ve been rescued; yet we realize that only as we reach up and accept the rescue that is being offered. Jesus Christ is able to give us the peace, freedom from anxiety, love, hope, and eventually joy! Cutting is a form of escape-ism. It takes much prayer-support, counselling, and eventually faith to look away from the problem and reach up to Jesus for the answer. I had an addiction as a teenager that I’m ashamed to mention. Sometimes it takes all of the above and also great determination to shake an addiction. But it can be done. Oh, what a blessing when we can go from success to success! Sometimes part of the answer is to work at something positive so that we can recognize achievement which takes our mind off past failures.
    It was a great help for me “to be able to tell myself that everyone has hurts and troubles, and we can and will succeed in spite of that.”
    No, I really do not have the answer, but I’m in tune with the ONE who does. Reach up to Jesus, my friend, and ask Him to lift you up and to restore your self-confidence! Cheers.

  • mugwort says:

    Former Sat. Night Live member, comic, actor says in the Video “Darrell Hammond at the Grove” says there are two reasons he cuts. (He started cutting late teens) First one he mentions is he cuts because he wants to show people who horrible he’s feeling emotionally. Plus he’s too afraid to tell how he feels. 2nd Cutting he sees as a crisis he can much handle and the physical pain of cutting with a safety razor is much less painful then the emotional crisis inside of him. Are these common reasons for self cutting? I wish everyone wellness here.

  • Chris says:

    the kind Word…so sorry to hear you are struggling. why not share what difficult experiences you have had in your Christian walk so we can find a solution to your lifes situation. thanks!

  • the kind word says:

    why should i? honestly at the rate i am goin finding a gun and ending it all is the best. i wouldnt cry i wouldnt stress and not more drama no more strugglin people only care for the dead so long. my brothers will continue to forget me and my parents will continue to wonder who and what i am and my bf will forever wonder why i dont think more often and why cant i relax everyone can beat me in but heaven forbid i fight back cause its wrong

  • Tom Tom says:

    the Kind Word–
    Since Jesus is perfect and totally trustworthy, why don’t you trust him?

  • the kind word says:

    no my eyes are closed to him and will remain so until i feel like i can trust him again

  • Aldo says:

    The kind word, may I ask you if your eyes are open to the Lord? Do you have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ? Are you “born again?”

    Many people who think that they are Christians, really are not, through no fault of their own. They believe that because they haven’t committed any serious sin, like murder or adultery, that they will go to heaven when they die. Much to their surprise, that will not be the case.

    The one and only way to heaven is by believing that God’s “only begotten son” Jesus, paid the price for your sin on the cross of Calvary, and by receiving him as your personal Lord and Savior. I pray that you have done so.

  • the kind word says:

    Whether you open your eyes to the lord, to your friends, family or to the inner strength that you have. you all are here alive breathing maybe a bit damaged a bit scarred and a bit tired but you are here. you made it here. you fought the demons that plague your heart mind and soul. you went through this so that another person didn’t. maybe a loved one you know now or will know later. will thank you for making it. thank you for smiling and breathing. dont cut for the haters dont cut for the monsters in you. Dont cut for yourself, for the little ones you will have one day and the person who will help you make the little ones

  • overcomer says:

    I was sexually abused as a little girl, raped at 16, and as an adult went from one abusive relationship to the next. I used meth,cutting, and purging to cope with life. One day I fell to my knees and asked God to save me. I have 18 years of recovery in cutting and meth, and 8 years in purging. God gets all the Glory! Now I have the honor of leading and sponsoring women in a ministry called Celebrate Recovery. Look online for the nearest group for you. It is free and it will change your life!

  • Aldo says:

    Fredrick, thank you for your comments on the love of God and Christ for us. He does love us, and He will never leave us nor forsake us. PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME!!!

  • fredrick says:

    you are beautiful, awesome, a princess, perfect and cleansed by his blood. he knows your pain, I wanted to tell you just as you have scars, Christ has scars on his heart but those scars are rejections from nations, tongues, and people. he love you more than angels demons heights depth’s powers and all creation. so if you don’t have Christ don’t addhim another scar he love you Hebrews 13:5-6 I shall never leave you nor forsake you. your scars though mean way more to God he sees them and knows you story behind them. he created you for his glory, and his throne room is opened you just have to take that step. I love you and so the king of the universe. the cross is you cure remember that.

  • fredrick says:

    God loves you so much that he would send his son for you. you are perfect, beautiful, awesome, and you are cleansed by the blood of the son. remember that Jesus knows your pain, just as you have scars so does Jesus but his scars are the rejection of people, on that day they mocked him, spit on him, and abused him. remember he knows he is love the cross will cure you, but if you don’t have Christ, don’t add a another scar to him, because when you he is rejected, he want leave you he want Hebrews 13:5-6 I will never leave you nor forsake thee.

  • Chris says:

    Ashley…sorry to hear of your situation. normally when someone is tempted to hurt themselves, its because they are frustrated, angered or disappointed about something in their lives. the cutting is only an outward sign of an inward dilemma. could you share your Deep-rooted feelings so that we can get to the root of the problem? thanks for sharing!

  • dream says:

    Ashley… Call upon the name of Jesus. Like you are under water and you need an air so the same way call and pray to him and he will help you because he is for you. He will forgive you your sins and give you a new life. He want you to be free.

  • ashley says:

    Im ash, I’m 25 a mom… And a cutter, puncher, picker, gouger, headbanger… My sister started screaming at me tonight because of it. I go to therapy.. But it hasn’t been helping. My new meds are driving me nuts and I feel so alone. I was raised Christian. But found no solice in the church. Im now Buddhist struggling to find myself in the sea of pain rushing inside my heart. I usually feel totally alone… But it helps a bit knowing there are others who feel like I do…

  • Chris says:

    krissy….glooooooooooooooooooooooooooory to God!!

  • krissy says:

    thanks everyone for your love. I’m still cut free

  • Aldo says:

    Krissy, God never sleeps, and is not intimidated by what people say about Him.

  • krissy says:

    Hey chris you have it good with god tell him to wake up before I lose it

  • Chris says:

    kirssy…sorry you are down. if in your church you arent getting the spiritual support you need, let me know. i can look for a better one for you. i pray jesus comfort be yours today as you know that romans 8.28 is always working on your behalf. blessings!!

  • krissy says:

    But thank you everyone who did their best to cheer me up and give me hope. Its more than anyone else has done who know me. Thank you im literally crying cause it touches me deeply especially with all thats going on

  • krissy says:

    Its me again.
    I am still holding it together. Without my friends my parents or my brothers. Still no sign. My father took my mother back andits all as it was before. Me with a bowed head. Went to church felt like a stranger and left.

  • Chris says:

    lucifer…this site isnt about religión but rather relationship to God through his son jesus christ. that is something we should all want and recognize we need. John 3.16. blessings

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