Mental Health Association in Ulster, Inc

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Self-Injury: Cutting

Self-injury, also known as self-mutilation, is defined by intentional injury/harm to oneself. Although there are many different forms of self-injury, one of the most common and the focus of today's blog is cutting. Cutting is generally NOT a suicide attempt but rather an unhealthy way of coping with painful emotions. In conversations with multiple people who have cut in the past, they have reported that is was cleansing for them and one reported "it released the bad blood." It can have similar effects as substance use since it causes spikes in endorphin levels as your body is trying to compensate for the physical pain.

As noted by the Mayo Clinic information website-Through Self-injury, the person may be trying to:

  • Manage or reduce severe distress or anxiety and provide a sense of relief
  • Provide a distraction from painful emotions through physical pain
  • Feel a sense of control over his or her body, feelings or life situations
  • Feel something, anything, even if it's physical pain, when feeling emotionally empty
  • Express internal feelings in an external way
  • Communicate depression or distressful feelings to the outside world
  • Be punished for perceived faults

Cutting generally starts in early adolescence and is more common in females than males. However, there are adults who cut as well. Having friends who cut increases the risk for a person to start cutting and people who have stressful and/or traumatic family lives have higher incidences as well. Once again, it is an unhealthy way of coping with painful emotions. There are risks of infection, scarring, feelings of guilt/shame and/or possible fatal consequences from cutting to deep or doing it while under the influence.

If you are cutting:

  • Try to find another way to get a similar release ie; hold a piece of ice in your hand, go for a walk/run or other physical exercise- positive ways to release endorphins
  • Recognize your triggers that lead to cutting and make a plan in advance to distract or soothe yourself to avoid getting to that behavior
  • Learn positive coping techniques such as; deep breathing/relaxation, expressing your painful emotions through talking, writing or art, spend time with people who make you happy.
If you are a friend or loved one of someone who is cutting:
  • Try not to be judgmental
  • Learn as much as you can about it
  • Let them know you care
  • Share your coping techniques with them
For more information on cutting visit the Mayo Clinic website at:

or to find a local therapist in Ulster County that is skilled in this area call: (845) 339-9090 x113- MHA information and referral hotline.


  1. For more information on S.I treatment, referrals, Books,DVD's,School Materials, outpt workbooks, and so much more...
    Call: 800.DONT CUT (366.8288) or

    1. Thanks for the info!