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Signs of Cutting Addiction and How to Get Help

Read on to learn the signs of cutting addiction and how to get help.

What Is Cutting Addiction?

There are numerous ways in which people deal with difficult emotions. For example, some people may vent to a friend, some might exercise, and others may internalize their feelings. However, some turn to self-harm to cope with their emotions. Self-harm, or self-injury, is defined as any type of deliberate injury to oneself, such as cutting, burning, hitting, or another self-inflicted wound. In this article, we will be focusing on cutting precisely.

Cutting addiction is an addiction where a person cuts themselves on purpose. Most people report engaging in self-harm due to feeling extremely tense, anxious, angry, or fearful, and then feeling relief, satisfaction, and decreased tension after self-harm behavior. In addition, some begin cutting because they see others engage in this behavior and believe it may help them feel better. Nonetheless, it usually only worsens the situation, potentially leading to infection, scars, and even death.1

cutting addiction

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Cutting in Relation to Substance Abuse

There is a strong link between cutting and substance abuse. Similar to cutting addiction, substance abuse can be a way of self-medicating, numbing emotions, or coping with stress or difficult situations. Thus, those who struggle with their emotions tend to use cutting and substances to cope and alleviate pain or struggles.

What Causes a Person to Cut?

There is no single cause of cutting, as it is often the result of a combination of factors. Some of these factors may include:

  • Difficulty understanding or expressing emotions
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Not knowing how to cope with trauma, pressure, or psychological pain in a healthy manner
  • Depression
  • Unresolved feelings of rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Self-hatred
  • Anger or confusion
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Certain personality disorders

How to Tell if Someone is Cutting 

If you're worried that someone you know is cutting, there are some signs to look out for. These include:

  • Frequently criticize of themselves
  • Having troubled relationships
  • Questioning their identity or sexuality
  • Living with emotional instability
  • Having an impulsive nature
  • Having feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Often have fresh cuts, particularly on the arms and legs
  • Have scars from previous cuts
  • Keeping sharp objects like razor blades and knives on hand
  • Covering up the skin even when the weather is hot

Risk Factors for Cutting

Various risk factors can result in cutting, including:


Adolescence can be a difficult and trying stage in some people’s lives. Unfortunately, the uncertainty, hormones, stress, and emotions can become too challenging to manage, resulting in self-harm.

In contrast, age is sometimes met with a decline in mental and physical health, leading to a loss of motivation and an inability to cope with stress. As a result, older adults may turn to cutting to cope with their problems.


People who have experienced abuse or trauma are more likely to self-harm. This is because they may not have the necessary tools or support system to deal with their emotions.

Identity Development

Adolescence is a time of intense emotional upheaval. We can often feel lost and alone as we try to figure out who we are and where we fit in. These feelings of loneliness and rejection can lead to self-hatred, anger, and confusion.

As a result, adolescents may turn to self-harm to cope with their emotions.

Social Circle

People with friends and family members who self-harm are more likely to do so themselves. This is because people often model their behavior after those they spend the most time with.

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders are often seen as a risk factor for cutting. For many people who suffer from mental health disorders, cutting can be a way to cope with the overwhelming emotions and feelings they experience daily.

Disorders like depression and anxiety can severely affect people’s daily lives, increasing the likelihood of developing a cutting addiction. It is estimated that around one in six adults will experience depression at one point in their lives.2

Drug or Alcohol Misuse

It's no secret that drugs and alcohol can be dangerous. People who misuse drugs or alcohol are more likely than others to engage in cutting and self-harm.

Why Do People Harm Themselves?

There are many reasons why people may turn to self-harm. Some of which are:

To Distract From Emotional Pain

When people are in pain, they often look for ways to escape it. For some, self-harming can be a way of numbing emotional distress. It can provide temporary relief from the overwhelming feelings they are experiencing. Evidence has shown a clear link between self-harm and suicide or suicidal thoughts.3

To Express Emotion

For people who find it difficult to express their emotions, self-harm can be a way of doing so. In addition, it can be a way of communicating the pain they are feeling inside.

To Feel in Control

When people feel like their life is spiraling out of control, self-harm can be a way of regaining a sense of control. It can make them feel like they have some power over their lives and bodies.

To Release Tension

Some people self-harm as a way of releasing tension. They may feel like they are holding everything inside and need to let it out.

To Punish Themselves

People who self-harm often feel like they deserve to be punished. They may feel guilty or ashamed of their thoughts and actions. Therefore, self-harming can be a way of punishing themselves for their actions.

Research shows that self-punishment usually occurs due to guilt in everyday situations, and the mild punishment of cutting is enough to restore one’s wrongdoings.4

To Feel Something

For people who are numbed or dissociated from their emotions, self-harm can be a way of feeling something. It can help them feel alive and connected to their bodies.

To Seek Help

For some people, self-harming can be a cry for help. They may feel like they are too overwhelmed to handle their emotions alone and need someone to notice.

What Complications Can Develop Because of Self-Injury?

Some complications that can develop due to self-injury include:5

  • Increased feelings of guilt and shame
  • Becoming addicted to cutting
  • Infection of the wounds
  • Permanent scarring
  • Severe injury requiring medical treatment
  • Accidental fatal injury
  • Increased risk of suicide

What Treatments Are Available for People Who Self-Harm?

cutting addiction

If you or someone you know is self-harming, there are treatments available. These include:

Talk Therapy

In talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, a person talks with a mental health professional about their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. This treatment method can help people who self-harm understand their triggers, develop new coping skills, and feel better about themselves. 

Group or Family Therapy

Group therapy is often recommended for people who self-harm, as it can provide support and understanding from others who are going through similar experiences. Family therapy can also be helpful, as it can help identify and address any underlying issues that may contribute to self-harming behavior. 


In some cases, doctors may also prescribe medication to help stabilize mood and reduce impulsivity. 

Find Recovery With Boardwalk Recovery

If you or someone you know is addicted to cutting, it's essential to seek professional help. Cutting is a form of self-harm that can be incredibly dangerous, addictive, and difficult to break free from without help.

Boardwalk Recovery offers several resources and treatments for those struggling with cutting addiction. Our highly qualified and compassionate medical staff provides the support and care needed to recover and live a healthy, fulfilling life.

Contact us today to learn how Boardwalk Recovery can provide you with the resources and support to break free from this addiction.
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