Dawson’s Blog

What Happens To Your Body When You Cut?

your body when you cut

How Pain Covers Pain

It seems that self-harm or cutting have become as popular as drugs or alcohol as a method to cover over pain.  It also seems to be destroying lives in the same way as other addictions do. Hopefully that life is not yours. But if it is, help can be on the way. You don’t have to stay stuck in the vicious cycle of self-mutilation.

If you’re a cutter, you might think it’s helping you feel better about the deep emotional pain you feel. But the truth is: cutting is a counterfeit helper. It promises relief from the hurt you’re feeling, but it only ends up making the heartache even worse.

If your thumb hurts, it doesn’t make sense to cut off your foot. In the same way, making yourself bleed is no way to take care of your very real emotional and spiritual needs. Cutting yourself merely covers over the deeper emotional pain you’re feeling. But like every other addiction, it’s far too much medicine for the sickness, and will come back to haunt you.

Nonetheless, you or someone you know likely cuts for the benefits you get from it. In fact, as someone once said, for every thrill there is a chill. So let’s not deny, with cutting there is some kind of a thrill.

Cutting Triggers Your Body’s Chemistry

The body naturally produces a chemical compound called endorphins. Endorphins are released to help the body deal with pain and stress. In fact, endorphins cause an actual high designed to cover over real physical pain. And cutting causes real physical pain.

You might have heard of runners high? This is simply the release of endorphins into the bloodstream when someone puts their body through something extremely physically challenging. This high, or euphoria, is extremely addictive.

Much of the same thing happens when you cut. Your brain is flooded with endorphins, which gives you a rush, and a sense of calmness and relief that makes you feel like everything is ok. Some cutters claim the high can last up to 90 minutes, but what happens when that high wears off?

Related Posts:
A Door of Hope
Why Do People Self-Harm?
Real Story: Artist Michaela Hatfield
How To Quit Cutting

your body and cuttingSarah S. understands this chemical dependency, after being addicted to cutting for six years. Your body has its own pain management using hormones called endorphins. Endorphins manage physical pain, as well as emotional. When someone cuts, endorphins are released and helps [cover up] the emotional and physical pain. It will make you feel better for a few minutes and then you will crash again. Eventually your body will build a tolerance to it and you will have to cut deeper and/or more frequently and more cuts at one time to get the same effect as before.

So in the end, cutting is rather simple to explain.

It is using self-inflicted pain to get a high, in order to self-medicate an emotional pain with a temporary feel good. The problem is the feel good quickly can turn to a feel bad, or worse, to an addiction.

Megan says she got addicted to the physical high of cutting as an early teen. I started cutting in junior high because a girl who was cooler than me was doing it. I kept on doing it because it helped with my pain that I was having from school or my family, or later from my eating disorder. I’m 20 years old and I realize now that I cut for a bit of a high, but I don’t have that urge to feel that high anymore.

Megan doesn’t feel the urge to get the cutter’s high anymore. How did she stop? One thing I know for sure, she came face to face with the consequences of cutting.

So please, if you have overcome the addiction of cutting, let me know how you had the moment of clarity that changed everything for you when it comes to cutting.

If you are struggling with self-harm, check out TheHopeLine’s free eBook.

Dawson McAllister Dawson McAllister (born in New Kensington, Pennsylvania) is an American speaker, radio host, and author. He is the founder of Dawson McAllister Association and TheHopeLine and host of the national radio program Dawson McAllister Live, which is aired on Sunday nights. Dawson has been speaking to and in support of teenagers and young adults for over 40 years.
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  • Changed

    I overcame cutting, completely. I used to cut when I felt there was no way out of my situation, my pain, and when the walls felt like they were closing in, and no one cared. I thought no one cared, but at the same time no one cared because I didn’t tell anyone! I remember one time starting to cut the word HELP into my arm. I also remember the very sick feeling of complete relief when the blood poured out. It was so calming and peaceful. I developed PTSD after an injury was inflicted by someone else and left me very disabled for a long time. This contributed to my cutting. It took an unintentional overdose and a trip to the ER to “scare me straight”. When someone finally knew about the problem I was having, I got help. I also had a doctor that was very persistent about my recovery and the consequences I would face if I continued with this behavior throughout the rest of my life. In the end, it took knowing that when I had children, they would be taken away from me if I continued. That was enough. It suddenly wasn’t worth it. I changed my life and have never looked back. I just KNOW it isn’t a part of my life anymore, I am not that person. I left that person behind and don’t ever want to be her again. She was sick and I am now healthy. I have the ugly scars as reminders of what I did to myself and what I will never do again.

  • Mireaux

    Nobody taught me how to hurt myself. It started when I was as a child with ripping my hair out, biting my arm, or punching the wall when I was emotionally high. I remember hearing about cutting and one day pulled out a razor instead. I was hooked. To clarify, I am a college grad on the road to medical school with a steady job and no childhood trauma. Although I have come quite far in my recovery, the urge bowls me over sometimes. I don’t think it will ever go away. What does it do for me? Calm. Instant peace. Stops the thoughts in my head and the anger or frustration I’m feeling. It’s euphoria. Learning to live without it is horrible.

    • blu paws

      Sounds like you need professional help, lot of underlying issues here

  • It is never too late to heal. Please chat online with a HopeCoach. We have lots of resources for healing and we care about you! http://www.thehopeline.com/gethelp/ Have you read Michaela’s story? http://www.thehopeline.com/meet-michaela-hatfield/

  • Rebecca

    Hey i’m a bit lost here. A friend of mine cut her self then in one point when she told me that, i try to stop her, force her i guess. Then she tries to explain me that she inside is much worse and i think i’ve reached a point where i let her do that again. Am i wrong? Or should i push her harder? What do you suggest me to do as her friend? Thank you.

  • Maddy.S

    Yes, I think that’s normal, as I do the same ish thing, but I squeeze my cuts, that seems to work for me. I haven’t done this for long AT ALL, this is only my 5th day of cutting, but my friend who cut (I had no idea!!!) did it for a long time, but her cuts never got half as deep as mine 🙁 Luckily I’ve told my friends about me cutting and it’s kind of helping me to stop, but I feel really sick and dizzy if I DON’T cut- I’ve looked this up, but apparently this hasn’t happened to any one else. Also, I go over my cuts again and again to make them deeper, but because my penknife is covered in blood, could that give me a disease or something? I’ve looked that up too, but no one else has written that too. Anyway, to answer your question- yes I think you’re normal!

  • So proud of you! Thanks for sharing your story of hope!

  • You are amazing! You are an overcomer. Sometimes it helps to just talk about with someone else. HopeCoaches are here for you 24/7 to help you defeat the negative thoughts and replace them with truth. We are here for you. http://www.thehopeline.com/gethelp/

  • Makayla, please don’t give up! You are not bothering us. We care about you. Have you connected with an email mentor yet? It is great to have someone who is there just for you and with whom you can have an ongoing conversation. I hope you will check it out and give it a try.

  • connor walker

    people in the locker room saw my scars and wont stop talking about it which only makes it worse

    • I am so sorry you are going through this right now. It helps to talk to somebody, we are here for you 24/7 http://www.thehopeline.com/gethelp/ We also have a FREE eBook about self-harm that has real stories (audio and videos) in it that can encourage you. You are not alone. Your close friends might want to read the eBook, too.

    • bre

      I have the same problems…

      • justindedmin

        People look at my scars and they talk about them an it pisses me off it just makes me wanna cut worse so if i’d die i would be so happy

  • Don’t give up, you are not bugging her. Maybe she had something come up in her own life that kept her from being able to respond. Please try again. If she hasn’t responded in a week, then please let me know! We will find you another mentor. We truly care about you and we are here for you. 🙂

  • bre

    I cut because I feel it is the only nessasary thing to do I feel like I deserve it….

  • Wow, that’s great! I am really proud of you. Anytime you are struggling you can chat with a HopeCoach. We are here to support you 24/7 http://www.thehopeline.com/gethelp/

  • Catherine

    Is it appropriate for old scars to be visible? I want to wear dresses because it’s summertime and I want to look cute and show off my legs, but my self harm scars are very dark and there are so many of them. Seeing them doesn’t bother me, but it’s very obvious that they are from cutting, and I don’t want to be judged or make others uncomfortable.

  • Aisha

    I am 14 and I cut myself the first time I did it there was a sense of regret but now its been a few times and now I feel the urge daily and I don’t regret I don’t know how to stop this urge I am getting worse day by day am I inhuman? Bcoz I hurt myself I feel worthless I am a average student but I used to be a great student I feel like I am a liability on my parents family and friends I am not fat but my besties are skinny and that sometimes makes me hate myself even more I don’t have a dark complexion but it’s not fair either my parents want me to fulfill there career dreams but I am passionate about something else I want to fulfill my own goals and dreams but I don’t want to make my parents unhappy either idk why am I telling u all this ikw no one cares but I can’t keep it in anymore uh…I hate myself so much I am a mess!

    • Anunaki Pimentel

      you gonna be okey, honey just have to be secure of yourself and accepting yourself as you are. nobody is perfect and we cannot pretend that life is a fairy tale just relax, go behind your dreams, cutting yourself won’t solve anything, if you felt uncomfortable about your body just go to the gym, change your look do something that would make you happy

  • It sounds like you are in a really rough place right now. If you want to talk to someone about how you are feeling, we are here for you 24/7. https://www.thehopeline.com/gethelp/

  • HopeCoaches on TheHopeLine® are available 24/7 to chat with you about it. It is safe, private, and free. We have resources for you, too. Simply click the “chat now” button or go to this link – https://www.thehopeline.com/GetHelp

  • Yes, you should definitely talk to someone. Keeping it a secret is only hurting you more. Chatting with a HopeCoach is safe, free, and totally confidential. We are avilable for you anytime 24/7. Let’s talk – https://www.thehopeline.com/GetHelp/

  • Sydnee..

    So um I’ve tan out of room on my four arm and I’ve wanted to know if cutting over old scars would have much effect? Can someone help me out with this?

    • Sydnee, It’s important that you talk to someone about the cutting. Please talk to one of our HopeCoaches as soon as possible. We have a resource that can help you overcome the desire to self-harm. You are important and you matter.

  • Alli

    I’m very new to cutting- a novice really. But I was amazed the first time that I felt nothing- absolutely nothing. No pain, just … I don’t know how to explain it… a natural high. Now I’m doing it several times a day. If I’m honest, it scares me because I think I need too much. I am beginning to wonder if I’m in control anymore.

  • Life

    A few years ago, I was a frequent self-harmer. I had no plans to stop and honestly couldn’t understand what was so wrong with it. I don’t think I even ever felt a ‘high’ of any sort. The point is I say this as someone who’s been through it. If your thinking about cutting, don’t start. It’s an addiction, after been clean for a while I still have urges and I can’t look at blood the same way. That initial curiosity in all the sadness started it, but it became so bad and I couldn’t stop. I think the inconvenience if anything was what helped me stop. Not anyone telling me, because I think we all know someone telling you to do something doesn’t make you wanna do it. I had to always wear pants no matter how hot it was, and occasionally it was sleeves too. Even when I was more discreet, I felt exposed in the locker room. Trying to sleep at night with my legs all cut up was miserable, I could never be comfortable. Once you start, it will only get worse. Soon every little thing will lead to a cutting session. The more you cut, the less you care about caring for your wounds or people seeing. Looking back I was unbelievable cruel to my mother. I would show her my wounds and let her clean them up, and she knew nothing she knew would stop me. She would cry almost every time. I have the occasional relapse but I’ve been mostly clean. I’m on this page even because I was trying to remind myself why I shouldn’t. I suppose I was lucky in a weird way, because even though I cut all over my body over and over and over again, I have almost no visible scars. Scar tissue happens to be just slightly lighter than my pale skin so most of it you can’t see unless under certain lighting. When I was at the beach, my faint scars practically glowed and for the first time I really saw the affects of what I had done to myself. After stopping cutting, I had alternated between some other self harm methods that were less scarring or physically visible…but now that I’ve stopped only now can I see how reliant I became on self harm. Every little thing started a cutting session. I’m only 18 now, but I don’t think the urges will ever go away or at least for a long time. I just really felt the need to share this and say: don’t start cutting if you can and if you already are stop before it gets worse and you can’t stop. I didn’t wanna say the typical warnings about cutting…because that stuff never got to me. Good luck you guys, I wish you all the best.