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Cutting Dangerous Self-Harm Symptoms Why Risk Factors Help Stop

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Last updated 03/03/2022

The TLC Foundation has made a statement that cutting is not a BFRB. There have been misunderstandings that they are similar. Cutting dangerous self-harm.

Disorders like trichotillomania (hair pulling) can be a mental health condition that’s repetitive but not harmful in that sense. Cutting is subjecting harm on oneself. And we know what it could lead to.

You know how I tell you to be good to your skin? I’m all about keeping your skin healthy and self-care. That is to say cutting is bad.

When any behavior starts to interfere with your quality of life it is an issue. BFRBs are sometimes done without being consciously aware. Further BFRBs are not intended to produce pain as with cutting.

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What is Cutting?

I’m all about education here. Making you aware of this important issue along with understanding this pain can put you in a position to help.

The subject of cutting can be troubling for parents. It can be difficult to comprehend why a child would deliberately self-injure. Most importantly it is a serious issue affecting many teens.

Cutting is not new. Certainly worrisome to imagine your teen or a friend of your teen could be at risk. Likewise if you haven’t heard about cutting your teen probably has and could even know of someone who does it.


It is a type of self-injury (aka self-harm) or you can say self-inflicting (SI). A person will purposely take a sharp object and make marks, cuts or scratches to their body. Moreover this is enough pressure to break the skin and cause bleeding.

This can be a dangerous habit. Most often it is a sign of deeper emotional distress. Further peers can often influence teens to try cutting.

Sharp objects used:

  • Razorblade
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Metal tab on a soda can
  • The end of a paper clip
  • A nail file
  • Pen

Therefore it is usually done on their wrists, forearms, thighs or belly. In short these cuts heal, usually leaving scars or marks behind.

Symptoms of self-harm:

  • Various scars may be numerous
  • Fresh cuts or scratches
  • Easily accessible sharp objects
  • Regularly wearing long sleeves or long pants during hot weather
  • Difficulties with relationships
  • Repeated questions about personal identity
  • Comments about feeling helpless, hopeless or worthless
  • Excessive use of bandages

A sense of shame and secrecy usually accompanies the cutting. Teens who cut will often hide the marks and if seen will give excuses for them. In addition, others don’t try to hide them and might draw attention to the cuts.

How Does Cutting Start?

According to TeenHealth those who cut are looking for temporary relief from a troubling situation. Cutting is done to handle negative feelings. Above all usually it’s done on an impulse as told by teens being interviewed. To sum up these individuals may not know of better ways to address their emotions.

And these individuals are aware this behavior is not good and short lived. Further they don’t intend to hurt themselves or continue cutting.

Those who cut their skin have often started in their early teens than it may progress to a habit. Some may continue as adults.

What Happens When Someone is Cutting Themselves?

When the body is put through something extremely physical and challenging it releases endorphins. Endorphins released can actually give a high created to cover over real physical pain. Thus cutting causes physical pain.

The high or euphoria is very addictive. This is the same thing that takes place when someone cuts. Above all teens that self-injure say cutting gives a sense of relief from deep painful feelings. Further the person gets the feeling like everything is OK.

So, it can feel like they’re addicted to this urge to cut. Most importantly due to this sensation the behavior tends to reinforce itself. Likewise, this attempt to be in control is now controlling them.

Some cutters say this high can last for 90 minutes but what about when it wears off?

Risk Factors for Cutting


It more often occurs in teens or young adults. Adolescence is that period of confusion with emotions and conflicts.


Cutting affects both males and females. However it’s seen more with females.


Those who self-harm could have been abused, neglected or raised in an unstable home.


Teens that cut could have questions about who they are or have confusion about sexuality.


They may be influenced by friends who cut. Thus, peer pressure plays a role with teens. Certainly, social isolation and loneliness can also contribute.

Mental Health Disorder

Self-harm may be connected to other mental health conditions like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Those who practice cutting are more likely to do so when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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Warning Signs of Cutting

Blood Stains

Blood stains may be visible on clothing, towels or bedding. Maybe even blood soaked tissue.

Accident Prone

This person may use the excuse that they are clumsy or accident prone in order to explain the injuries.

Alone time

Makes request to be left alone for long periods of time. Especially concerning, spending extreme time in the bathroom.

Effects of Self-Harm

Self-harm can be serious as well as dangerous including physically, emotionally and socially.


  • Permanent scars
  • Bleeding that doesn’t stop
  • Infection
  • Deep open wound


  • Guilt or shame
  • Embarrassment
  • Anxiety about hiding it
  • Feeling helpless or worthless
  • Addiction to self-harm


  • Avoiding others
  • Being ostracized by those who don’t understand
  • Having to lie or make excuses about injuries
  • Keeping to oneself

Adults Addressing Cutting

Since this is a delicate subject you don’t know how the teen will react. This depends on the teen and your approach.

Some could deny they cut while others might admit it still denying any problem. Moreover the teen could get angry and upset or reject your help. On the other hand they could be relieved that you know, or care and want to help.

Sometimes teens can draw attention to their self-injury. Other times the cutting can require medical care bringing the secret out. However the cutting is done for a while before anyone knows.

If the teen wants help to stop the teen will eventually tell someone about the SI. They may just want someone to understand what they are dealing with.

It requires courage and trust to reach out.


Many hesitate with the fear of being misunderstood or worry that the other person might be:

  • Angry
  • Upset
  • Disappointed
  • Shocked
  • Judging

Teens may also confide in friends and ask them not to say anything. In short this puts the friend in a bad place.

Helping Someone who Cuts

Maybe you have noticed injuries or someone has admitted they cut. What do you do or say?

Acknowledge Your Own Feelings

This may bring on feelings of shock, confusion or even disgust with the behavior and guilt about having these feelings.

Learn About the Problem

Learn all you can about self-harm. This will assist in overcoming any discomfort or distaste. Understanding why your child is doing this can help you observe the world as the child sees it.

Don’t Judge

Try not to use judgmental comments and criticism. This will only make the situation worse. Most importantly the person who is cutting has feelings of distress, shame and loneliness already.

Be Supportive

Give support, not ultimatums. Your natural instinct is to help but threats, punishments and ultimatums are the opposite. Express your concern and let the person know you’re there to talk when she is ready.

Encourage Communication

Encourage this person to express his feelings even if the subject is something you might be uncomfortable with.

If the person hasn’t mentioned the self-harm approach the subject in a caring, non-confrontational way.

“I’ve noticed you have injuries and I want to understand what you’re going through.”

If you are addressing a family member be prepared to face problems in the family. Remember this is not about blame but connecting and dealing with issues in better ways to benefit the entire family.

malicki-m-beser-7zea2PEpnnA-unsplash cutting dangerous self-harm

An End to Cutting

Whether or not someone else knows or has offered help, some teens have cut for a while before trying to stop. A teen whose SI is linked to another mental health condition will require a professional. Most importantly sometimes this leads to being admitted to a mental health facility.

Having a powerful reason to stop can encourage the teen. This could be realizing how much the action is hurting another. Above all the cutter must practice new ways to handle problems and overwhelming feelings. In conclusion this can take time and usually requires professional help.

Wrapping it up

Cutting is a dangerous form of self-harm. This is an issue affecting many female teens. Most importantly it is an unhealthy way to deal with negative feelings.

It is not a BFRB nor in most cases, it is not an attempt of suicide. Understanding as well as being supportive can help break this dangerous habit. In conclusion be aware of signs and risk factors to spot self-harm.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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