Cutting is a very common form of self harm utilized primarily by young people who though not suicidal are intentionally injuring themselves. Cutting is frequently seen as attention seeking, however it is more accurate to view it as a coping mechanism or a method used to either punish oneself or to “feel something” when they otherwise feel numb emotionally.
Many cutters take steps to ensure their self inflicted wounds are not seen, even altering clothing choices or patterns of behavior to conceal the scars and wounds. Instead cutting is generally an attempt to relieve emotional pain and discomfort. There are currently no diagnostic criteria established for cutting or other forms of self harm, however evidence of repeated, intentional injury is a strong indicator of the need for professional treatment.
Treatment for Cutting varies depending on the identified cause for the behavior. Among the forms of therapy most often used are cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy. In addition, the provision of alternative outlets for expression has proven useful for many cutters. Among the techniques aimed at dealing with the causes in a more positive manner are journaling, walking, exercise programs, sports or other physical activity, and spending time with friends. Additionally the removal of objects used for cutting, including not only knives but scissors, box cutters and razors, can be helpful to resist immediate urges for self harm.
Parents are often shocked to discover that a child is Cutting. The cultural identification with cutting, if it is recognized at all, is with an “underworld” element rather than the “normal” middle-class setting in which it so commonly occurs. Triggering factors with which parents may have to deal include low self esteem and isolation from friends, as well as a feeling of lack of acceptance within the family. Cutting is equally common among boys and girls, and most typically begins in middle to late adolescence.
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