Recently I had an acquaintance tell me that her daughter discovered her friend at high school has been cutting. They are concerned, confused and scared. Like many, they couldn’t understand why anyone would willingly hurt themselves.
It is hard to understand why people resort to self-harm. It is believed that self-injury has an effect like drugs, where endorphins are released and create a feeling of feeling good. Over time, a person may need to cut more often and deeper to get those feel good feelings. Cutting may be a symptom of anxiety, depression, trauma, obsessive thinking, compulsion, bipolar disorder or an eating disorder. The individual has poor coping skills and needs to release intense emotions or pressure and cutting can relieve those feelings.
What to watch for:
- Small, linear cuts. Typically there will be straight, often parallel lines on the forearm, upper arm, and sometimes the legs. Some people cut words into themselves, such as loser, stupid, or fat.
- Unexplained cuts and scratches, that appear regularly.
- Mood changes like depression or anxiety, or changes in relationships or school performance.
If you suspect your loved one is cutting:
- Be direct with them, express your concern, saying “I am going to get help for you.”
- Understand that this is a lack of coping skills.
- Be supportive, lower their stress level, and have open communication.
Self-harm is not something that kids outgrow and cutting is not necessarily an attempt at suicide, though suicidal ideation should be assessed. If your loved one is cutting or engaged in self-harm, make an appointment with a therapist at Yurk Counseling Services LLC for a thorough assessment and to get treatment for the underlying issues.