Cutting and Self-Harm, Can I stop?

Question: “I am a cutter. I started self-arming when I was 7, I am now 35. I am going through the LDS recovery program to help me with this but Ia m afraid if I stop cutting what will I be able to replace self harm with. I want to stop but am so dang afraid of the hole not cutting/picking will leave me to fill.”

Answer: “I will give my best in a responce here with candor as I am confident I don’t have all the details on your history. I am sure you have a lot of pain in your past based on the presenting symptoms you mentioned in your post above. You mentioned that you have been cutting since age seven, about 2nd grade. My hunch would be there is abuse or neglect in your history that is fueling your self-harm and the cycle of pain. I’m glad to hear you are going through the LDS recovery program and getting some help. My suggestion would be that you seek professional help of a therapist to help you sort through your history and get some undestanding about the resevoir of pain that is fueling the cutting and self-harm. Your question states that you fear that if you stop cutting you’ll not have another avenue to persue right? To some degree you are correct, when you interupt that pattern of cutting and ‘feeling’ that is so entrenched in your psychie your mind and body will seek elsewhere for some kind of release and way of self-soothing. Contrary to popular belief, many that cut do so to soothe and to feel. The cutting gives a strong sense of feeling and being alive, and paradoxically gives one the sense that they are now ‘in the body’ and feeling. It also gives a sense of control to the cutter and some control over the induction of pain and feeling, a sense that you may not of been able to manage during neglect, trauma, or abuse in your childhood.

My suggestion is three fold. First, you meet with a therapist in town that can help you understand and start parsing through the history and get at the root of the pain. Second, that you begin to learn to self-soothe in new ways. Self-soothing is like a child that sucks their thumb, adults have their own ‘thumbs’. Your finding ways to relax and yet still feel will help provide a new way to meet your needs without the self-harm. Thirdly, start doing some reading. I recommend two books I’ve used with clients that have the same struggle.

A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain

Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

Please contact a local therapist you can meet in person and begin healing. I am sure it has been a long journey for you. I hope and pray the healing and answers you seek will be yours soon. Also, remember, if/when you feel you are a risk to yourself please seek appropriate medical attention by dialing 911 or visiting a local emergency room.

  1. […] Are you still involved with your therapist? If you are still struggling to not self-injure in whatever fashion I’d highly suggest a few things. I’d suggest you speak with your parents and inform them of your struggle. Also, I’d saw you’d need to see your therapist and have him/her create a plan with you to work through (not around) the core issues that fuel the self-harm. Again, remember the secret has power, and with self-injury the secrecy and pain involved is in large part what keeps people stuck in the pattern of behavior. You can heal, but it takes risk. Risking opening up and working through with your parents. With cutting, it is typically fueled by pain and a resevoir of unresolved issue that once worked through, the behavior will slow down and eventually cease. If you do not work through the main issues trying to stop to the cutting by singing a song or merely stopping will likely not yeild lasting results. Also, you may want to see my past blog article on self-injury at […]