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How Can I Explain My Reason For Cutting?

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
My friend cuts, and I used to as well but I learned that it wasn't helping at all and just unhealthy and rather stupid, rather counterproductive. But anyways, since every adult I've talked to hasn't heard of cutting until recently, it's hard for them to relate to us. What is a good way for me to explain to an adult how cutting can be proved as an actual addiction and why one would do it? I've found it difficult to elaborate other than 'cutting makes you feel reassured that you can still feel alive, feel pain, other than that caused to you.' I know it's difficult to rationalize why one would cut, but it would be really helpful. Thanks, Reasons For Cutting?
Signed: How Can I Explain My Reason For Cutting?

Dear How Can I Explain My Reason For Cutting?,


It can be difficult for someone who has never cut, or who has never been close to someone who does cut, to understand why a person would engage in any kind of self-harming behaviors. If you find yourself in a situation where you are trying to explain cutting, consider discussing some of the following:  

  • Cutting is a maladaptive way of coping with difficult emotions and situations. People who self injure generally have not developed healthy coping mechanisms. 
  • People who cut often have a very difficult time expressing their emotions – either verbally or in some other healthy outlet. It can also be hard for many cutters to label their feelings. The cuts become a statement of their sadness, pain, anger, stress and/or loneliness. 
  • Cutters often feel a sense of relief from very intense and overwhelming feelings after cutting.
  • May people who cut have been through some kind of sexual or physical abuse and are still trying to work through that abuse. 
  • Cutting can be a kind of self-punishment for people who see themselves in a negative way or somehow undeserving of good things. 
  • Many cutters have an underlying mental health illness that has gone untreated, such as depression or bipolar disorder. 
  • People in any kind of emotional distress often shut off their feelings as a way to survive emotionally in their environments. Because they can be so numb to emotions, by cutting and feeling the pain, it is a way to feel like they are still alive and are really there. 
  • People who cut often do not feel like the people closest to them really listen to them and understand them. They often feel very isolated and alone and end up cutting, an act that often takes place in a very isolated and private setting. 
  • A low self-esteem tends to be an underlying factor with most people who self-injure. 
  • Many people who cut have a great deal of repressed rage – that anger has to go somewhere, and cutters often take the anger out on themselves through the self-injuring behavior. 
  • Cutting can be a way for people to feel like they are maintaining a sense of control over themselves and their lives. 
  • Cutting can be a distraction from painful thoughts and feelings about present or past experiences and circumstances. 
  • When people are depressed, full of rage, under a lot of pressure and stress, and have a negative sense of self there are many things they may do to their bodies that people who are emotionally healthier might have trouble doing and/or relating to: abusing alcohol and/or drugs, smoking cigarettes, and even excessively piercing or tattooing the body.
  • Self-cutting can be a cry for help – a way to get the people around them to notice the extent of their distress. 

If after discussing it, you find that someone still does not understand, it might be helpful to recommend some resources where they could get more information on cutting. Some resources to consider are:


It is highly recommended that people who self-cut, or self-harm in any way, meet with a mental health professional for treatment. If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area. 

You can also contact the Self-Injury Hotline (information only, not a crisis line) at 1-800-DON’T-CUT, 1-800-366-8288.

Signed: TeenHealthFX