What is cutting? What would make someone want to cut? Cutting is the act of self-mutilation.  It is when people deliberately hurt themselves. It is often a way to cope with stress, anger or other emotions they cannot cope with. It's estimated that roughly two million Americans are cutters. Cutters often hide the fact they cut. They may wear long sleeves, or even try to explain the cuts and scars away. Cutting is not just reserved for the arms. Other areas on the body include the legs, hands and stomach.  Other names used for this act is: self-mutilation, self-harm and self-injury. It is an unhealthy way of dealing with emotions.

     Cutting most often starts in teen years where peer pressure and acceptance are introduced, although it can continue into adulthood. Objects used to cut can range from plastic, razors, glass and knives to anything that could break the skin and make it bleed. People who cut usually don't feel the pain associated with the cutting. For them it is a way to "bring them down" from an intense feeling of anger, hurt or frustration.  It is a form of relief.  Mental health problems could be an underlying issue  that may give to emotional tension. This may include: depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

     Cutters may not have developed the social skills to learn how to deal with tough situations, or strong emotions and often have a hard time fitting in. A cutter may have a hard time verbalizing the emotions they are feeling to other people.  People who cut are not trying to commit suicide. It is their way of trying to feel better. Cutting is not the only form of self-harm. Hair pulling, head banging, pinching, self-biting, burning, overdosing, continually picking at scabs, carving words or signs into the skin are all forms of self-mutilation.

    At one time women, it was believed, cut more than men, but studies have shown that it affects both women and men at the same rate. People who cut are also more at risk for infection. The more frequent the cutting, if not allowed to heal, the more susceptible bacteria is to enter the wound and get infected. It may also cause permanent scaring. 

     Not all cutters, if started in teen years, will grow up as adults cutting. Most times a person who has cut in the past can relate to someone who is cutting, and will try to help them stop. Learning how to talk to someone about their feelings, whether it is a parent, friend, or counselor can help put emotions into perspective. Also becoming engaged in an activity when the urge to cut comes up can help a cutter cut less, or stop. Hearing positive reinforcements and learning to think positive thoughts can help.

     If you have a child who is cutting, or know someone who is cutting, talk to them. Explain the seriousness of cutting. The permanent scars it can cause, the potential infections, and if the cut is deep enough, the risk of something much worse happening to them.