Self-harm Cuts: How to Help, Distraction Techniques, Causes & Treatment
What is Self-Harm?
Self-harm is defined as the act of someone hurting themselves intentionally. Often people who self-harm, or make self-harm cuts to themselves, won’t tell their family or friends and will do it in places that they can cover up.
Most people who self-harm are not attempting suicide. Self-harm is also referred to as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). However, self-harm can cause more damage to someone’s health and safety than they may have intended and can also cause accidental suicide. Some people who self-harm may only do so once, whereas others self-harm frequently and for many years. 
As stated by Mentalhealth.gov, about 1 in 100 people practices self-harm cuts or other forms of self-harm. More females hurt themselves than males. A person who self-harms usually does not mean to kill themselves. But they are at higher risk of attempting suicide if they do not get help. Self-harm cuts tend to begin in the teen or early adult years. Some people may engage in self-harm a few times and then stop. Others engage in it more often and have trouble stopping. 
Self-harm includes behaviours such as:
- Cutting, burning or hitting yourself
- Binge eating or starvation
- Putting yourself in a risky situation
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
- Overdosing on prescription medications
Some people are more likely to self-harm than others. The chance of someone self-harming can increase if they have suffered or are suffering from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, or are living with a mental illness. Someone may also self-harm because of the death of a loved one, because they experience pain, such as bullying, or loss such as miscarriage, or because they experience extreme sadness or anger. 
Self-Harm Cuts refers to when a person deliberately hurts themselves by scratching or cutting their body with a sharp object. The reasons someone might do this are complicated. People who cut themselves might be trying to cope with frustration, anger, or emotional turmoil. It might be an attempt to relieve pressure. But any such relief is short-lived and may be followed by feelings of shame or guilt.
Some people make self-harm cuts once or twice and never do it again. For others, it becomes a habitual, unhealthy coping mechanism. Cutting is a form of self-injury not typically associated with suicide. But it can lead to severe, even fatal, injury.
What causes a person to practice Self-Harm Cuts?
There are no easy answers as to why a person turns to cut, though there are some general causes. A person who self-harms may:
- Have difficulty understanding or expressing emotions
- Not know how to cope with trauma, pressure, or psychological pain in a healthy manner
- Have unresolved feelings of rejection, loneliness, self-hatred, anger, or confusion
- Want to “feel alive”
People who self-injure may be desperate to break the tension or rid themselves of negative feelings. It could be an attempt to feel in control or to distract from something unpleasant. It can even be a means of self-punishment for perceived shortcomings. It’s certainly not always the case, but self-harm cuts behavior can be associated with other conditions such as:
- Bipolar disorder
- Drug or alcohol misuse
- Certain personality disorders
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
In time, the act of cutting can become similar to an addiction.
What factors make someone more likely to injure themselves?
Some risk factors for self-harm cuts are:
- Age: People of all ages self-injure, but it tends to occur more in teenagers and young adults. Adolescence is a time of life when emotions and conflicts, and how to deal with them, can be confusing.
- Sex: Both males and females cut themselves, but it’s believed that girls do so more often than boys.
- Trauma: People who self-harm may have been abused, neglected, or raised in an unstable environment.
- Identity: Teens who cut may be questioning who they are or confused about their sexuality.
- Social circle: People who have friends who self-injure may be inclined to do the same. Peer pressure may play a role, especially during the teen years. On the other hand, social isolation and loneliness can also be a factor.
- Mental health disorders: Self-injury sometimes goes along with other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Drug or alcohol misuse: Those who tend to cut themselves are more likely to do so if they’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
How can you tell if someone is practicing self-harm cuts?
There are exceptions, but people who cut generally go through a lot of trouble to hide that fact. People who self-harm may:
- Frequently criticize themselves
- Have troubled relationships
- Question their personal identity or sexuality
- Live with emotional instability
- Have an impulsive nature
- Have feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
Upsetting events can trigger the impulse to cut. If someone is cutting, they might:
- Frequently have fresh cuts, particularly on the arms and legs
- Have scars from previous cuts
- Keep sharp objects like razor blades and knives on hand
- Cover up their skin even when the weather is hot
- Make excuses about cuts and scars that just don’t ring true
A person who cuts may also engage in other self-harm behaviors such as:
- Scratching or picking at wounds
- Burning themselves with cigarettes, candles, matches, or lighters
- Pulling out their hair
What should you do if you discover your loved one is practicing Self-Harm Cuts?
If you discover that a loved one is cutting, reach out to them.
Children and teens: friend to friend
If you find out your friend doing self-harm cuts, remember that you aren’t responsible for their behavior or for fixing it. But you might be able to help. What your friend needs right now is understanding, so let them know you’re there for them. You must talk to them without any judgment. Suggest that they talk to their parents about cutting. If they aren’t comfortable with that, suggest they speak with a school counselor or other adult they trust. If you’re very worried and don’t know what to do, tell your parents or a trusted adult.
Parent to child
If your child is cutting, they need compassion and guidance. And they need to know that you love them no matter what. Punishing them or purposely embarrassing them will be counterproductive. Make an appointment to see your pediatrician or family doctor right away. Have your child examined to make sure there are no serious wounds or infections. Ask for a referral to a qualified mental health professional.
You can also do some research on your own to learn more about self-injury, strategies for overcoming it, and how to avoid relapse. Once a therapist sets a treatment plan, support your child in following it. Consider joining a support group for parents of people who self-injure.
Adults: friend to friend
If you have a friend who is self-injuring, urge them to see their doctor or mental health specialist. They have enough on their plate, so try not to pile on with disapproval or ultimatums. Don’t imply that they’re hurting people who love them because guilt doesn’t work and often can make things worse.
They won’t change until they’re ready to do so. Until then, continue spending time with them and ask how they’re doing. Let them know that you’re ready to listen if they want to talk and you’ll support them in their recovery when they do seek help.
If you self-harm cuts, it is important to see a counselor, psychiatrist, or doctor. These healthcare professionals can help you find what is causing your urge to self-harm and work through your difficult thoughts. Early intervention can minimize damage caused by self-harm and decrease your risk of future episodes. If you can, find supportive people who you feel comfortable with who you can talk to and will listen without judgment. If you have a friend or a family member you can trust, reach out to them to help you through this challenge.
Treatments & Therapy for Self-Harm Cuts:
There are effective treatments for self-harm that can allow a person to feel in control again. Kinds of therapy can help, depending on the diagnosis.
- Psychodynamic therapy: focuses on exploring past experiences and emotions
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: focuses on recognizing negative thought patterns and increasing coping skills
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy: can help a person learn positive coping methods
If your symptoms are severe, your specialist may recommend a short stay in the hospital. They will offer a safe environment where you can focus your energy on treatment. Someone who self-harms and seeks medical assistance will be referred by their doctor to a psychologist who specializes in self-harm. A mental health professional can help you to find the cause or trigger for your self-harm behavior. They can also provide management tools to help you cope with any challenging thoughts and difficult feelings.
In many cases, people who self-harm also suffer from mental health disorders. A psychologist can assess whether there are any underlying mental health conditions. Psychologists can provide management strategies and treatments that can help you feel better. 
Types of Treatment Against Self-Harm Cuts:
There are different approaches to manage self-harm treatment and mental illness and may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This is a type of ‘talking therapy’ that is based on the principle that how you think, and act affects the way you feel.
- Medicine: In some cases, the best treatment for an underlying condition that triggers self-harm is medicine, such as an antidepressant or anxiety medicine.
- Psychotherapy: Counselling helps to stabilize thoughts and feelings by identifying the cause of the emotional stress and teaches skills to help address distress.
You may need treatment from a doctor for physical injuries after a self-harm episode. In severe cases, you may be required to go to the emergency department.
Effective Distraction Techniques against Self-Harm Cuts
Some of these techniques may feel uncomfortable or hurt, but they are not harmful or dangerous. Examples of distraction techniques include:
- Holding ice cubes in your hands
- Keeping a rubber band on your wrist, you can snap it against your wrist whenever you feel you need to
- Drawing red lines in pen on your body, where you would otherwise cut yourself
- Using exercise to release pressure and stress
- Talking with someone you trust
- Writing, drawing, or scribbling on paper with a red pen
- Doing meditation, such as practicing relaxation or breathing techniques
- Focusing your attention on something simple for some time, this may help your negative thoughts pass
Self-Harming is a condition that can cause major health problems including long-term scarring, infection, brain injury, or organ damage. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to treat Self-Harm Cuts with professional and safe care. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.