Self-Injury and Cutting

Reviewed on 5/21/2021
Self-injury and cutting are deliberate acts of harming the body due to various reasons.
Self-injury and cutting are deliberate acts of harming the body due to various reasons.

Disclaimer: We strongly forbid the patients from engaging in self-injury or cutting for any reason. This practice is neither safe nor effective to manage any mental health issue. Reach out to your doctor, friends or relatives if you are in any kind of distress.

Self-injury and cutting are deliberate acts of harming the body due to various reasons. It may not be limited to suicidal attempts in most cases. It is done to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. Through self-injury, the person may be trying to

  • Manage or reduce severe distress or anxiety and provide a sense of relief
  • Provide a distraction from painful emotions through physical pain
  • Feel a sense of control over their bodies, feelings or life situations
  • Feel something, anything even if it is physical pain, when feeling emotionally empty
  • Express internal feelings in an external way
  • Communicate depression or distressful feelings to the outside world
  • Be punished for perceived faults

What are the warning signs that a patient may be indulging in self-Injury and cutting?

Identifying people engaging in these behaviors can be challenging. If you are worried a loved one is hurting themselves, it’s essential to know how to recognize the warning signs of self-harm.

Behavioral signs

The behavioral warning signs of self-harm include changes in someone’s actions, such as

  • Low mood or tearfulness
  • Low motivation
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Isolation
  • Staying out all night
  • Spending time with a new group of friends
  • Talking about death
  • Keeping secrets or changing their normal communication style
  • Sleeping too much or too little

Physical signs

The physical signs are usually identified in someone’s appearance. Be sure to pay attention to

  • Wearing multiple bandages
  • Reluctance to show parts of the body
  • Any new, unexplained injuries or any old wounds that are not healing well
  • Wearing long sleeves and long pants all year long
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • Hair loss anywhere on the body

Other signs

  • Someone engaging in or thinking about self-harm could display several other warning signs. Additional warning signs may include
  • Spending excessive time researching self-injury online
  • Buying a variety of blades
  • Stockpiling knives or razors in their rooms
  • Hiding bloody rags in the garbage

What are the common causes for self-Injury and cutting?

Self-injury and cutting are a problem with multiple contributors. Each person’s contributors will be unique to their situation. Some possible causes of self-harm include

  • Self-harm and substance abuse are strongly connected. It appears that people who misuse alcohol and other drugs are more likely to self-harm than those people who do not. This relationship could be due to the lack of self-control and poor judgment caused by substance intoxication.
  • Self-injury is more common among people with mental health conditions than in people without mental health issues. If someone has depression, borderline personality disorder, anxiety or eating disorders, they have a greater chance of self-injury. People living with mental health disorders may need treatment specifically for self-harm and mental illness.
  • Lack of comfort and life stability can contribute to self-induced pain. Like other conditions affecting someone’s mental health, traumatic life events, such as abuse, neglect, the threat of violence and loss add to the likelihood of self-injury and cutting.
  • Other people may self-harm just because they overhear their peers talking about the experience or they see self-injury carried out in the media. These outside influences may spark curiosity in self-harm, which may lead to someone engaging in the act.

What are possible treatment options for patients who are having recurrent ideas of self-Injury and cutting?

Treatment is based on the specific issues and any related mental health disorders a person might have, such as depression. It is best to get treatment from a mental health professional experienced in self-injury issues. Possible treatment options may include

  • Psychotherapy: Known as talk therapy or psychological counseling.
  • Medications: If a person is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, the doctor may recommend antidepressants or other medications to treat the underlying disorder that is associated with self-injury. Treatment for these disorders may help the person feel less compelled to hurt themselves.
  • Psychiatric hospitalization: If a person injures themselves severely or repeatedly, the doctor may recommend hospital admission for psychiatric care. Hospitalization, often for a short-term, can provide a safe environment and more intensive treatment until the person gets through the crisis. Mental health day treatment programs also may be an option.

If a person is injuring themselves, even in a minor way, or if a person has thoughts of harming themselves, they should reach out for help. Any form of self-injury is a sign of bigger issues that need to be addressed. Talk to a trusted person, such as a friend, loved one, doctor, spiritual leader or a school counselor, nurse or teacher who can help take the first steps to successful treatment. A person may feel ashamed and embarrassed about their behavior, but there is supportive, caring and nonjudgmental help available at their reach.

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References
Davis JL. Cutting and Self-Harm: Warning Signs and Treatment. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/cutting-self-harm-signs-treatment

HelpGuide.org. Cutting and Self-Harm. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm

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