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Ask Dr. Roger - Cutting and Self-Harm

Q: i hate cutting myslef but i don't know how to stop

Cutting and Self-Harm

A: Let me start by telling you a little bit about cutting. Cutting is a form of self-injury, and seems to have become more and more common over time. Research shows that approximately 4% of people in the US engage in self-injury, and 14% or more of college students do it as well. So, you should not feel alone. The majority of people who self-injure use skin cutting. However, people also use other ways to hurt themselves, such as burning and scratching.

People who cut themselves sometimes have a psychological disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression and Eating Disorders are a few examples of disorders that sometimes involve cases of self-injury. However, people who cut do not always have a diagnosable disorder.

There are several reasons for why people hurt themselves.  People sometimes harm themselves as a form of self-punishment. They are angry at themselves for something, and cutting is a way to deal with these feelings. Another reason people cut is to try and FEEL something. They might lack emotions, for a variety of reasons, and cut themselves to try and feel less numb. Cutting can also be used as a cry for help.

However, probably the most common reason for why people hurt themselves is to regulate their emotions. When they experience something negative (e.g., stress; anger; depression; self-criticism), they do not know how to handle it, and cutting helps them to cope. I know personally, based on my own clinical practice, the inability to handle negative thoughts and emotions is a fairly common problem. However, cutting is not the long term solution. It might make you feel better in the short term, but you never learn to deal with these problems in the long run.

I would recommend you try counselling or therapy. Your therapist or counsellor can help you identify the reasons for cutting and then help you replace this behaviour with a healthier option. Also, it will provide you with an opportunity to discuss whatever problems are causing you to cut in the first place.

If you’re not sure where to find some help, try visiting the Canadian Mental Health Association website to find programs and services in your area or go to the mindyourmind Help pages for more resources.

Thank you for writing, and reaching out.

Dr Roger