Self-Harm and Cutting: How Do You Know if Your Loved One is Suffering?

It may seem unbelievable that someone you know or love would purposely harm themselves. Cutting themselves or injuring themselves in some other way seems a far fetched idea. Unfortunately, it's not the case. Many people suffer from this disorder and live in silence as they continue to injure themselves. 

The Reasoning
Most people who self harm or cut themselves do so to relieve the pain. It helps them to feel better about distressing situations or overwhelming feelings they can't handle. Some people feel as if they have no choice to get rid of that pain or stress other than to hurt themselves. The problem arises that when they cut themselves or injure themselves it doesn't stop the pain. It only puts a bandage on it for now, but it will come back. 

How To Know if Your Family Member is Hurting Themselves
One of the hardest things to do is know for sure if they are injuring themselves. Most often it is done in secret because they do not want anyone to know what is going on. They also may cover the wounds or put them in places you'd never see. A few signs you may notice include blood stains on the towels or clothing they own, covering up or wearing long sleeves and pants even if it's hot outside, and they may isolate themselves or become very irritable. 

How Can You Help
First you should handle your own feelings before talking with them. Do not approach them with anger as this can only cause them to go in a different direction. Inform yourself about cutting and self harm and try to understand it before you talk with them. Give them immense support and encourage them to talk with someone such as a therapist. This can help them to start dealing with why they cut and the true emotions behind the self harm. 

Smith, M. and Segal, J. "Cutting and Self-Harm". HelpGuide.(Website).(March 2016).
  • 13 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • Thanks for this post, @FriendlyAdvice. My son was a cutter as a teenager. It got to the point where we had to lock up all the kitchen knives and other sharp objects. Fortunately, therapy was able to help him stop. But it was a difficult time, for sure.

    Thanks again.
  • @FriendlyAdvice thanks for sharing. i too had a teen that cut for a while. therapy helped her as well and she also educated herself on the matter. 

    for parents, you might think your teen would never cut, but trust that many do...even if there's nothing real traumatic going on in the be on the lookout and have an open conversation to your teen about it if you feel led.
  • That was a very interesting post, I never realized the reason why they cut was to find some sort of relief. It's good to be informed and be educated in order to help oneself and those around.

    Thanks for sharing.
  • It's not easy to say it (it's harder out loud then writing) but I used to cut. It started back in university The pressure to get good grades was too much, my life was crazy and eventually I started scratching, which rapidly evolved to cutting. That led me to have even worst results and I needed to stop for a while. I'm glad I'm out of it after all these years and I must say that I really identify with the words. We don't cut for attention. We cut because the wounds of the soul hurt more than the ones in the skin.
  • I was a cutter during a time when it wasn't even heard of.  I was the only one I knew who did it (I grew up before the internet).  So I kept it very private and hid it skillfully.  When a few of my friends discovered what I was doing they over reacted and I got the wrong treatment.  I pretended I stopped, but just got even more secretive about it, and more skillful at hiding it.  It's hard to help a cutter who doesn't want to be found out, because unlike so many other behaviors it truly can be hidden away for ... well, forever.
  • A friend of mine had a girlfriend back in high school who was cutting herself. Some of our friends said that she was probably doing it to get attention. Back then, I didn't know better and did not understand how can a person mutilate and hurt themselves. And I also thought the same thing back then, that perhaps she was doing it just to gain attention. But of course, her reasons for doing so go much deeper than that. It's really sad that some people hurt themselves to relieve the anxiety and pain that they're feeling. And most of the time they do not receive help that they need. They are sometimes even judged for it when others know about it. And perhaps, that is one main reason why they keep it secret and not seek help from anyone. 
  • A lot of people think self harmers cut to get attention... which isn't true at all. Many cutters hide this and do very well! 
  • This is a great post, thank you so much for sharing!
    Cutting is a really dangerous problem, especially for teenagers, and I think that is important, as a parent or friend of a teenager, to be aware of all the symptoms that the person may have. 
    Sometimes support and good communication is all that they want. 
  • I guess it is a sort of masochism. I never thought about it as an addiction. It sounds awful. I have a friend who cut his arms with razor blade but he was young and dumb it didn't have anything to do with addiction. I don't know why people make this kind of fuss about it. Okay, it is not pretty and it can get  infected, I realise that. On the other hand it is not like that parson is taking heroin or some pills. This is usually just a phase in growing up and if you are lucky you can remove those scars later.
  • As someone who has self-harmed for years and is currently struggling with recovery, this post means a lot to me. The biggest thing is to make sure you don't overreact. A lot of times people assume that someone is self-harming for attention when this really isn't the case. I don't think that people would hide self-harm so carefully if they wanted your attention. Sometimes it is for attention but even then I think it's more as a cry for help than for attention in the way people usually perceive it. A lot of people don't take self-harm seriously when they really should. It isn't "just a phase" and it's not necessarily a failed suicide attempt. Lots of people self-harm without being suicidal. What people have to realize is something has pushed that person to the point where they feel the only way to deal with it is to take it out on themselves. My advice for if someone you love is self-harming is to use gentle words but don't act as if you're talking to a child and be sure that if they relapse you don't blame it on them, cutting or any form of self-harm isn't something you can just stop. If someone opens up to you and tells you they self-harm, please don't assume it was just a one-time thing. I cut for 4, almost 5 years before I told my mom and her assuming it was a one-time thing hurt me more than you could imagine. Self-harm often comes with many other problems such as eating disorders that may not be noticed except by a professional; please try and get whoever it is that you know is harming themselves to get professional help. Putting all the pressure on yourself isnt healthy.
  • @initforus... Thanks so much for your insightful comments. I think it will help educate a lot of people. And best of luck to you with your recovery. Feel free to come here anytime for help or support.
  • @initforus... Thanks so much for your insightful comments. I think it will help educate a lot of people. And best of luck to you with your recovery. Feel free to come here anytime for help or support.
  • Thank you so much for sharing this information with all of us, it's really helpful, especially now that this is a relatively common issue on young people, and it may not seem too much at the beginning but it can be really dangerous if it's a progressive thing. The most important thing is to prevent, making them know that we're here for them if they want to talk about anything, in my oppinion, it's a big part of our job as friends/relatives.
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