A cutting disorder is one in a complex group of behaviors known as self-harm, It involves a deliberate decision to mutilate or hurt oneself. Cutting entails making small cuts on body parts such as the wrists, arms, legs, stomach, and chest. People who cut themselves usually try to conceal their wounds, thereby cutting in places easily covered by clothing. Affecting young people aged 12-24 years old, cutting is the most common of all self-harm methods.
- Interfering with wound healing
- Banging or hitting body parts against hard objects like walls or floors
- Swallowing or ingesting poisonous or inedible items
Cutting falls under the category of self-harm in the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and is classified as a symptom of borderline personality disorder. Several disorders have been associated with cutting, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia.
Why One Resorts to Cutting
Cutting is a symptom of underlying issues. They can range from self-loathing to severe mental health problems. It is a temporary outlet for their internal pain. So, why would one resort to cutting over drugs, alcohol, gambling, sexual activity, or eating, to ease inner turmoil?
Regardless of the method, any destructive behavior that is in response to underlying personal issues, such as cutting oneself is a result of an inability to express and healthily process these issues. Why one person may resort to cutting while another may resort to sexual acts, gambling, or gaming is a combination of personality traits, environment, and experience.
Cutting is an individual action, and most of those who cut themselves do so in absolute secrecy. Although it is a cry for help, cutters do not usually show any indication of their habit. In fact, many young people who cut themselves are among the honor students and most popular kids in their classes.
There are several other ways in which the behavior of cutting is not as evident as other addictions:
- There is no noticeable “high” associated with cutting. While those who cut themselves will experience a reprieve from their internal suffering, there is no nodding off, or “speedy” behavior associated with the effects of cutting oneself. Cutting does not produce any bizarre behavior, other than the need to continue cutting.
- The costs associated with cutting are minimal if any at all. If no cutting instrument is readily available, the cost of purchasing one is extraordinarily minimal. Since there is no substantial cost associated with cutting, there is no financial hardship resulting from the behavior, which is usually a reliable indicator of other addiction problems.
- No legal repercussions for the behavior. It is not illegal for someone, even a minor to possess a pair of scissors, a pen, even a razor blade inside his or her home. While discouraged and frowned upon by most, the act of cutting oneself is also not illegal.
Even though it may be harder to spot a cutter than a drug addict, it is not impossible to do when considering the most affected demographic, and having an understanding of why those who cut themselves do it.
Young People and Cutting Disorder
Self-cutting, like any other self-destructive behavior, is an attempt to deal with emotional pain and inner turmoil. In fact, depression and cutting often go hand in hand. How a person may engage in destructive actions to numb or distract oneself from issues, are vast. They can be anything from working too many hours, drug and alcohol abuse, and self-injury methods like cutting. So who is at risk for cutting disorder?
Cutting is most common among young people, mostly because of their immaturity and inability to deal with painful and traumatic experiences in their lives. Studies show that among this group, girls are more likely to cut themselves than boys.
Many adults are unaware that young people deal with a tremendous amount of stress and pressure that may lead to cutting disorder. Some adults may think that young people don’t know what pressure is, without the responsibilities of paying bills, supporting a family, maintaining a career, etc. The truth is that expectations in school, family life, and relationships with peers can create traumatic events that can lead to cutting.
The Impact of Bullying on Teens
An increasingly common source of pain that can likely result in cutting is bullying. As a growing concern, harassment in school over a myriad of issues is traumatizing and devastating for young people. Bullying is one of the most disturbing ways to demoralize another human being, especially those as sensitive as young people. When a student is bullied in school, the likelihood is that he or she will not have a solid group of friends with whom there can be an outlet for the pain inflicted.
Many kids are embarrassed by being victims of bullying, and will not report it to a school administrator or their parents for fear of retaliation or the appearance of weakness. Without any other positive source for expressing or coping with their trauma, many victims of bullying turn into self-hurting methods, cutting is the most common.
Women and Cutting Disorder
Women tend to be caring, motherly, and can often tend to the needs of others rather than themselves. There is a delicate balance between caring for loved ones and caring for oneself. When the needs of a woman come last she is subject to abuse, degradation, and extreme stress. The fallout from this situation can be massive. This may be the result of past events like abuse or neglect as a child. Yet, they remain silent about any abuses or injustices they endure in adulthood.
Such triggers can be from abuse as an adult or a vivid memory of a traumatic event. When a woman in a relationship is in a fragile state of mind she may cut herself off from her own needs. She will delve deeper into the life and needs of her significant other. If she cut herself in the past, she will likely resort to cutting again.
Men and Cutting Disorder
Some men live by a stereotype of needing to be strong and stoic, showing no signs of pain and emotion. Although this stereotype is unrealistic, some people still adhere to the rules governed by this ideal. Some men are at the other end of the spectrum. They are very sensitive. The chances are that they would show their pain, anger, sorrow, and regret if they thought it acceptable. So, what happens when men like these feel pain? Men need an outlet for pain just like everyone else.
For men, the cutting disorder is a way to make internal pain feel “real.” For one who is emotionally repressed, making pain tangible may seem like a logical thing to do. This report can be linked to other “masculine,” yet destructive behaviors like fighting and sexual assault. Most adult men who cut themselves engaged in cutting disorder or some other form of self-injury in childhood. Adult cutting can be likened to relapse for drug and alcohol addicts. Triggers that may prompt a man to resume cutting may be a traumatic event that resembles one from his past. Or, it may be a recent event with which he finds extraordinary difficulty coping.
Cutting Disorder Can Be Helped
Regardless of a person’s age, gender, or circumstance, there is always inner pain and turmoil. This is especially true for one who resorts to cutting him or herself. The tremendous pressures of having deep internal pain, and attempting carrying on with normal life can be overwhelming for most anyone.
Without getting to the cause of their pain, and processing it for reconciliation, how to cope with cutting will always be an impending problem. The disorder of cutting is not a suicide attempt. However, many who never receive help may eventually commit suicide when cutting ceases to be an adequate escape. Furthermore, cutting oneself is a dangerous thing to do. Any number of circumstances can occur that could cause a deeper cut than intended, and lead to unintentional death. Those who cut themselves are in tremendous pain. No matter what their circumstances may be, professional help is the only way out of this horrific life.
Where to Find Help for Cutting Disorder
If you or a loved one are having difficulty in life and cutting disorder or engaging in any other form of self-injury, call us now at our toll-free number. At A Forever Recovery, we understand how hard life can be for everyone. We also know that unresolved personal traumas can destroy lives. We offer multiple programs and tracks tailored to each person’s needs, preferences, and belief systems.
With an open-ended program, we ensure that each client has all the time necessary to heal. We empower each person to understand his or her self-worth, grow awareness, and develop communication skills for healthy and constructive expression. Please don’t suffer alone. Call us today and speak with a trained counselor about how we empower people to save their lives every day.