Girl with depression

Why do people cut themselves?

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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.

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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.

Scars from self-cutting
Scars from self-cutting

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Psychologists have found that people who cut themselves are often very sensitive, withdrawn and impulsive.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.

Teenage girl self-harming with a knife blade
Teenage girl self-harming with a knife blade

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.


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  1. I cut but not for attention I hide it from people I may smile I may laugh but it doesn’t mean I am happy or having fun I only do it cuz that’s what people want to see I have had a bad life and it get worse everyday I have tried to kill myself I will try after I am d OK me writing this so good bye world that didn’t even like me goodbye Zack sorry I couldn’t be a good gf I’m sorry dad I wasn’t a boy or a great daughter im sorry I f****d up on sorry

  2. Basically, I self-harm because I’d rather feel physical pain than emotional pain–it’s my escape when nothing else works. Unfortunately, just like drugs, it becomes an addiction.

  3. I hesitate to comment but years ago I use to self harm. I didn’t want to die but the pain was so overwhelming. The need to release the consuming pain and regain control of me before my impulsiveness caused me to do something I couldn’t take back. Like an addiction you desire more release so you progressively do more harm. Pills for Depression and Psychiatrists that I was told I wound need for the rest of my life.
    God found me. He reached for me and never let go.
    I’m not saying that I don’t still have depressing days but I pray to God for release. He is there always. Some days are filled with much more conversation with him but he is always there.

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