Why Am I Cutting?

Published: August 01, 2014
Dear TeenHealthFX,

I don't get any pleasure out of cutting. It doesn't make me feel better. It doesn't stop me from feeling empty, it doesn't make me calm, or give me an emotional high, or any of those reasons people always give for cutting. I have no idea why I cut. It does nothing for me. My therapist suggested that maybe it's because cutting has become routine for me, that I'm just going through the motions. But that's not true. It's always been like this, from the first time I ever cut. When I cut it doesn't feel like a big deal. I do it with about as much thought or emotion as brushing my teeth in the morning. It's always been that way from the very beginning. I don't know why I started, and I don't know why I can't bring myself to stop. It makes no sense. It's like eating when you aren't hungry. The only thing I ever think about while doing it is to do it better this time. Bigger, deeper, more serious, more blood. I started out making tiny scratches with a piece of obsidian, but I escalated to the point where I now cut deep enough for the blood to drip down my arm. It's not enough though, because once I wash the blood away it just looks like a little scratch. I have a feeling that I won't be satisfied until I have raised scars covering my arms. Why am I cutting? Can you tell me about reasons someone might cut other than the usual reasons?

Dear Why Am I Cutting?,

It is always hard to give reasons for a behavior when most of the explanations have already been rejected. Almost all actions have an overt or underlying purpose. Cutting can become a routine behavior, like a compulsive ritual or take the form of addiction. However, its original intent continues to be present, but it gets buried deeper the longer the behavior continues. Many addicts and alcoholics begin using as a response to a painful experience or to combat depression. They eventually spiral out of control, to the point where they have lost control of the behavior. Countless addicts will readily tell you that they no longer feel any effect from the drug but can’t stop using. 

You take issue with your therapist saying, “maybe it's because cutting has become routine for me, that I'm just going through the motions.” but go on to make the same argument. It sounds that you feel that he/she is not viewing your cutting as a serious problem. Regardless of the semantics, TeenHealthFX agrees that this is a serious problem and is worried that you are not getting the proper help. Whatever the underlying reason that leads you to cutting, the behavior does nothing to deal with the problem. Obsidian, throughout history has been used as an highly effective cutting tool because of its glass properties and sharpness. It is only a matter of time before your cutting behavior could lead to a serious or life threatening injury. 

You need to talk with your therapist and make it clear how much your cutting has progressed and that a much more focused approach is needed so that you can stop. If you don’t feel that your therapist is helping you make progress, then you should talk to your parents about finding a mental health professional, who is uniquely experienced in treating self-injurious behavior or adolescences. 

For more information and a section on referrals, check out the SAFE Alternatives website.

Signed: TeenHealthFX