Cutting is a type of medical illness. Cutting oneself or engaging in other forms of self-harm can become an addiction. The individual may be trying to deal with deep emotions, distress, or hardship. Recognizing the signs and risk factors of cutting can enable you to seek professional help for your loved one.
A self-harm disorder most often comes about as a way to temporarily relieve and/or cope with deep emotional pain. Self-injury by cutting oneself could provide the individual with relief from a psychological trauma – at least temporarily. The inability to process problems in a healthy way can lead to cutting to express one’s emotions. Cutting might also be a symptom of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, or substance abuse.
Cutting does not necessarily mean the person is suicidal. In fact, most people who self-harm by cutting are not trying to kill themselves. Instead, they are trying to express their feelings or ease inner turmoil. Hurting the skin is a temporary distraction from internal pain. It is a destructive behavior, just like a substance use disorder, that serves as a cry for help. If you know someone who is cutting, it can be difficult to detect the issue. Knowing what to look for can help you help your loved one.
Cutting Risk Factors
Some people possess risk factors that may increase the likelihood of self-harm behaviors. Having a substance use disorder such as a drug addiction, for example, could lead to cutting. If your loved one has one or more of these risk factors, he or she might be more at risk of cutting:
- Abused or neglected as a child
- Victim of sexual assault or domestic violence
- Mental health issues or mental disorders
- Substance abuse or alcoholism
- Friends who cut
- Young adults
Teenagers are the largest demographic for cutting. Self-harm often begins in teen years because of emotional strife, stress, depression, loneliness, and peer pressure. If you have a teen that seems to be struggling with depression, consider whether he or she might have a cutting addiction.
How To Tell If A Loved One Is Cutting
Most people who cut themselves do so in secrecy. Most cut themselves in places they can easily hide from others, such as high up on the arms or the thighs. It is largely an individual act that the cutter does not do in front of other people. Furthermore, many people who cut or self-harm seem outwardly okay. They may appear happy or at least normal, with no outward signs of the habit. Many kids who cut themselves are on the honor roll or sports teams. All of these facts can make self-harm extremely difficult to spot. Some signs, however, can include:
- Unexplained cuts or abrasions. If you know someone who is frequently getting into accidents to explain bandages or injuries, it may be a sign of someone cutting.
- Strange scars. Look for wounds where your loved one can easily reach, such as the wrists and arms. Signs of a cutting addiction include multiple cuts or scar tissue in one location, or thin lines such as that from a razor blade.
- Blood on person’s belongings. Your loved one might be cutting if you notice blood on hand towels, toilet paper, in the trash, on the sink, or on the person’s clothing.
- Covering the skin. Someone who is cutting might be crying for help, but that person generally wants to keep the activity a secret. Look for long sleeves and pants, even when it’s hot outside, as a sign of cutting.
- Isolation. People with cutting addictions often isolate themselves from others, because of depression and/or the need to hide the cutting from others. Someone who seems uncomfortable or irritable in public may be a cutter.
Signs of cutting can vary from person to person. If you notice any strange behaviors from your loved one, it is worth investigating. Even if self-injury is not the problem, your child or friend may be struggling with another issue, such as depression or substance abuse. If your loved one is cutting, seek help from a professional.
Measuring The Severity Of Cutting
It is important to try to spot cutting behaviors and to stop them as soon as possible. Cutting comes with many risks to one’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Bring your loved one in to see a doctor if you suspect cutting. Once a physician confirms self-harm, he or she will try to gauge the extent of the disorder. The physician will ask questions such as when the cutting began, how often the person cuts, and what triggers an episode, as well as if the individual has thoughts of suicide. After diagnosis, your loved one can start the healing journey.
Common Side Effects Of Cutting
Cutting can make a bad situation worse rather than better. Although someone may start cutting to relieve emotional turmoil, it can actually cause feelings of guilt or shame. It can also come with physical side effects, such as infections or anemia, as well as the risk of cutting an important vein and bleeding to death. Cutting too deep could also cause long-term damage to tendons or nerves, making it difficult to control the hands or legs. A cutting addiction is especially physically risky.
Finding Help For Cutting Mental Health
Understanding why people cut themselves is the first step toward seeking treatment. Identifying the underlying cause of a cutting addiction is critical for treating a cutting addiction for good. If you believe your loved one is cutting, seek professional assistance. Many addiction treatment centers have self-harm specialists who can assist you in hosting an intervention and get the help you need.
Intervention Helpline can help you understand your loved one’s addiction and find the right type of treatment for cutting. We offer free confidential consultations and recovery resources for cutters and their families. Our intervention counselors and addiction specialists can give you the information you’re looking for on self-harm behaviors and addictions. Learn more today at (888) 329-6015.