Cutting refers to the action of using sharp objects to cut the forearms, legs, or other areas of the body. Cutting is a form of self harm, a group of process addictions that are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. While this condition is most often associated with teenage girls, cutting addiction can occur among men and women of any age, race, or socioeconomic status.
According to Healthy Place, it is estimated that:
- Each year, 1 in 5 females and 1 in 7 males engage in self injury
- 90 percent of people who engage in self harm begin during their teen or pre-adolescent years
- Nearly 50 percent of those who engage in self injury activities have been sexually abused
- Females comprise 60 percent of those who engage in self injurious behavior
- About 50 percent of those who engage in self mutilation begin around age 14 and carry on into their 20s
- Many of those who self injure report learning how to do so from friends or pro self injury websites
- Approximately two million cases of self harm are reported annually in the U.S.
Reasons for Self Harm
There are many reasons why someone cuts. They may do so to feel a rush of euphoria or to release tension. They may do it to punish themselves or to express anger. They may do it in order to gain control of something in their life, or to numb their feelings. Others cut to feel pain which makes them feel more alive.
Those who suffer with self harm disorders often have experienced trauma or abuse in their life. They use the cutting as a way to cope with the stress and anxiety of life, or to simply feel better. The act of cutting releases adrenaline which may provide temporary relief for emotional or physical pain the person is experiencing. However, cutting and other forms of self harm have devastating consequences. It can leave deep scars on the skin and can lead to skin infections. In addition, cutting can become a compulsion that the person loses control over.
Negative Effects of Cutting
Cutting is a process addiction that can be as difficult to overcome as drug addiction. Without help, the individual that cuts can develop other mental health problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts. They may turn to drug and alcohol abuse to cope when the cutting loses its effectiveness. Others develop eating disorders or other self harm conditions over time.
Teenage and pre-teen girls are the most at risk for cutting disorders. Other risk factors include individuals with low self-esteem, increased anxiety, and a history of abuse. Those with impulse control issues, as well as perfectionists, are also at higher risk for developing a self harm disorder.
Cutting is a disorder that often goes undetected. Teens and adults that cut do so in the privacy of their own home or a bathroom, and will go to great lengths to hide their scars. It is important for parents to be aware of self harm disorders and to watch for symptoms of cutting in their teen.
According to Teenhelp.com, symptoms include:
- Wearing only long sleeved shirts, or refusing to wear shorts, even in hot weather
- A sudden increase in the number of skin injuries, even when your teen provides a good explanation
- Unexplained cuts or scratches
- Associating with friends who cut
- Discovery of a sharp object you wouldn’t expect among your teen’s possessions
- Withdrawing from family, friends, or favorite activities
- Increased irritability or impulsiveness
- Constantly covering arms, legs, hands, and wrists
- Low self esteem
Treatment for Cutting and Self Harm
Treatment is available for individuals suffering with a cutting disorder. Treatment centers that specialize in behavior disorders often have the expertise to treat self harm disorders. Because cutting is a mental health disorder, it is important that treatment involves both behavioral modification and mental health assessment and therapy. Treatment centers that specialized in cutting disorders include Castlewood, the Ranch, MFI Recovery, and Good Future Teen Rehab.
Parents can help prevent their teen from developing a cutting disorder by helping improve their self esteem and by developing a healthy relationship with their child. Teens that feel a close connection with their parents are more likely to talk to their parent about things that are bothering them rather than turn to something like self harm. Parents can also encourage their teen to get a job or get involved with sports or other team activities. These positive activities help teens stay busy, build relationships with others, and reduce the urge to self harm.
A parent or family member who suspects their loved one is cutting should talk to their doctor or seek professional help right away. Early intervention is the best way to ensure complete recovery from a self harm disorder.