Often the cause is mental pain due to present or past trauma. Some report feeling more control after cutting, others say they do it to feel sensation rather than numbness.
Cutting is a form of self-mutilation practiced by about one in 100 people in the United States. Although these individuals may cut themselves anywhere on the body, the legs and arms are particularly common cutting sites.
Contrary to popular misconception, people who cut themselves are not necessarily suicidal. People do generally engage in this behavior in response to extreme psychological pain.
Reasons Why People Cut Themselves
People who cut themselves are often suffering from mental pain due to present or past trauma. However, specific reasons for this self-injury may differ.
Some individuals have stated that they cut themselves in order to feel sensation rather than numbness. Others may cut because of self-hatred for failures or feelings of powerlessness. Similarly, some people have reported feeling more control over themselves or their circumstances after cutting.
Although the wounds associated with cutting are usually not life-threatening, this behavior should not be dismissed as a superficial cry for attention. A variety of psychological disorders have been linked to self-cutting, and some form of intervention is often beneficial.
Who Cuts Themselves?
Psychologists have found that people who cut themselves are often very sensitive, withdrawn and impulsive. Some of these individuals have suffered past or present abuse, and most are likely to conceal their behavior and lie to others about the source of their injuries.
Borderline personality disorder, characterized by mood instability and an overwhelming fear of rejection, is strongly associated with self-injury, but post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression and psychosis have also been linked to it.
What Other Forms of Self-Injury Exist?
A variety of self-injurious behaviors may be performed alongside or instead of cutting and have been linked to the same psychological disturbances. For example, burning, bruising, scratching and bone breaking have been recorded.
Self-injury has also been observed in non-human animals, such as birds, which may pluck out their own feathers during prolonged isolation.
What Can Be Done to Stop Self-Injury?
People who injure themselves may find that their self-destructive impulses fade after they address the root psychological causes. Depending on the cause and the individual, common treatments may consist of counseling, medication or both.