Why Do People Cut Themselves?

There is so much confusion around the addiction of cutting. It's hard for some people to understand why you, or someone you know, would repeatedly harm themselves on purpose.  I want to break through the confusion and help those who practice cutting as a way of life. I've heard a lot of people say, why would anyone do such a thing as purposely cause pain to their bodies? So, let's begin to uncover the reasons why so many people cut themselves.

Most People Cut to Cover an Even Deeper Emotional Pain

As I have talked with hundreds of people that self-harm, one major reason emerges over and over again: Most people cut themselves to try to cope with an even deeper emotional pain. If you or anybody you know is cutting, please understand cutting is a way of covering something much deeper and painful going on inside.

Cover Self-Hate

An anonymous blogger put it this way: I used to cut because I felt like it was the only way to feel something other than the hurt and confusion and self-hate that was driving me insane. I would cut because I hated myself so much that I wanted to tear myself to pieces.

Cover Past Trauma

Most cutters' ability to cope with life is overwhelmed by powerful emotions or extreme pressure that seem too intense to bear. Jenessa said she's been a cutter for 7 years. I was sexually abused by someone very close to me. I started cutting because I always thought that what happened was my fault. I have never gotten over it, so I used to cope with any problem I had by cutting. Taking it out on myself was so much easier than figuring out what to do emotionally.

Can't Express Emotional Pain

When these emotions aren't dealt with, tension builds up. Cutting can feel like a release of this tension. Rachel said cutting is a way for her to deal with her pain: It's an escape from reality. No matter how temporary it is it's a relief to escape all the pain.

Most cutters struggle to express their pain to others. Without the words or outlet to express their emotional pain, they give into a short cut, a destructive physical expression toward themself. Laken said cutting is her first reaction when she feels disappointment or difficulty. When I fail a test, when I get in a fight, when I am called a mean name, or when anything bad happens the first thought is to cut. It is horrible and I always fall back on it.

The physical pain has a calming effect on her more agonizing emotional pain. Cutting is the treating of one pain with another. A cutter's life is one of the choices between one kind of pain or a much greater one. Amy said: It feels good when you have physical pain to take away from your emotional pain.

Avoid Dealing with Deep Feelings

The problem with self-injury as with any addiction, is that by harming yourself you never really are able to confront your deepest feelings. Perhaps that is you. You are using cutting to try to cope with an even deeper emotional pain. It is hard to say no to something that feels so good. But in the end, cutting will fail you every time.

Don't lose hope. There are healthy ways to deal with your emotions and to stop cutting for good.  Check out these helpful resources on self-harm from TheHopeLine.

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, check out TheHopeLine's free eBook.

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272 comments on “Why Do People Cut Themselves?”

  1. I have never actually cut, but I have come close. I struggle with anxiety and mild to moderate depression, and I just feel like there's no way out of my thoughts and feelings. I've thought of what would happen if I died. I told one friend about this and made her cry, which just makes me feel worse about myself. There's always this anxious feeling 24/7 and a lingering unhappiness. Terribly mature and dark thoughts/emotions for a 13-year-old in 8th grade.

    1. Mikayla, Thank you for reaching out to talk. You are valuable and worthy! You are dealing with depression and anxiety that sounds like it is increasing. It's very important that you get some professional help. We have a partner that can help you with the self-harm that you can text them at 1-803-570-2061 (Alternative No. 914-393-1904) Texting is available Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 8:30 – 10:30 EST. Their website is http://www.doorofhope4teens.org. You can email them to doorofhope4teens@gmail.com (answered in 24/48 hrs) If you ever feel so overwhelmed you can’t go on, please call: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 Or Chat with them at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ Or Crisis Text Line 27/7 by texting “Start” to 741-741 Here is a list of additional suicide prevention resources https://www.thehopeline.com/suicide-prevention-resources.
      Take a chance and reach out to Door of Hope for help. You will be glad you did. They have helped many teens and young adults we have sent them over come self-harm. Mikayla, that is a lot of information and resources to take in. Please let us know if you need anything else.

      1. I appreciate the help that you so kindly offer. I have never talked to anyone about this (besides that friend, who couldn't understand the way I needed her to) because I feel like no one in my life would understand. After I wrote that first comment I did cut, which at least partially took my mind off of my mental pain, but also upset me further that my thoughts and emotions have become such a wreck as this. After I talked to my friend about it I only felt less of a desire to tell someone who could help because of the pain I would cause others once they found out, no matter who I would talk to, be it a school counselor, my parents, or an online mental health specialist. I also feel like once others found out they would believe I was merely overexaggerating about a minor problem, but I genuinely do not know how to help myself in the best way possible. I have a question: do you guys- whatever the number of people who run The Hope Line- have personal experience with anxiety, depression, or some other mental health issue? Or do you simply take pride in contributing, to the best of your ability, to the saving of someone's life in this manner? A bit of both?

        1. Mikayla, You are welcome. We are honored that you trusted us to reach out and talk. It's important that you continue to talk about how you are feeling, without concern about what others think. You are important and you deserve the help you need to get to a place of healing and hope. Thank you for asking about our experiences here at TheHopeLine. We do have a place on our site that people have shared their stories about anxiety and depression. Here a couple of links to the stories we share: https://www.thehopeline.com/story/anxiety/ https://www.thehopeline.com/story/depression/ Hopefully these are helpful to you.

          1. HopeLine, thank you for the links. I may visit them sometime soon. I honestly am not sure whether my depression is at suicidal level, which sounds a bit strange, but I really don't. Sometimes it feels worse than other days. Some days its just the daily anxiety, and besides that I don't have many problems mentally. Other days I feel unwilling to do anything but lay in bed, where I begin to contemplate my life and everything wrong with it. I have anorexia, and even though I am healthily skinny I never feel like my weight is low enough. I generally do not eat breakfast or lunch, and only eat a small amount at dinnertime. This sometimes makes me feel sick or tired, though I've learned to live with it. My mood can quickly change drastically for no evident reason, just that random stuff triggers it. Music is truly a reason to live for me, primarily emo bands, and my favorite out of those is Twenty One Pilots. I listen to music very often.

          2. Hi Mikayla, Thank you for your kind words. They mean the world to us and you mean the world to us too. We are here to listen and help you in any way we can. You mentioned you deal with anorexia and depression. It's good that you are becoming self-aware that your mood can trigger you. We do have a partner that can help you with your eating disorder. They are called Finding Balance: https://www.thehopeline.com/partners/finding-balance/ Check them out. If you ever want to chat online with one of our HopeCoaches they are available every evening here: https://www.thehopeline.com/gethelp/ Music is a great way to deal with the depression and anorexia too! We love Twenty One Pilots and everything they have done to help others. Mikayla, We are praying for you and know you can overcome!

  2. I think it is very important to communicate this in any article, book, or discussion on cutting. Males (boys, teens, adult men) cut as well. I believe men are simply less likely to speak up about their struggle with self-harm. I deliberately hurt myself through my teen years. In my 40s, when I started dealing with my childhood sexual abuse, I went through a season of cutting.
    It is so humiliating to deal with this issue as a middle-aged man. It requires courage to be honest about such destructive behavior.
    Working with a counselor and with the support of a trusted friend, I came through that season. But even though it has been 5 or 6 years since I was an active cutter, I still miss it at times. I miss being able to see the marks and feel the pain. That reminds me that there is still real pain to be dealt with.

  3. eyy guys i am bianca okay so ive been cutting for 3 years long for bulying,problems at home,adicteed to things i shoulnt be on and i got help but never helped me anyway so i stoped cutting is never worth a thing its ur death and tht person who loves u the most gets hurt yah ik u dont care but care at least for the other person who does lve u even when its ups and downs.

  4. Old habit of cutting has returned due to mother's day a day that should not exsists. It's going to be a long night-

    1. Andrea, It's important that you get the help you need to overcome your desire to cut. We are here to listen and help. We have a partner that will help you with the need to self-harm.
      • You can text them at at 1-803-570-2061 (Alternative No. 914-393-1904) Texting is available Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday 8:30 – 10:30 EST.
      • Their website is http://www.doorofhope4teens.org.
      • You can email them to doorofhope4teens@gmail.com (answered in 24/48 hrs)
      Please reach out to them. They will help you.

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