Do You Have A Self-Injury (Cutting) Problem? | Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Do You Have A Self-Injury (Cutting) Problem?

Self-injury is a behavior people rely on to relieve or distract themselves from difficult feelings, or to communicate emotions that they seem unable to speak. Once people learn to express themselves in other ways – verbally, or in writing – the impulse to harm the self subsides. The unpleasant feelings may not go away, but the coping mechanism becomes a healthy one.

The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem, and that you are not alone. Self-injury is a choice and you can choose to not injure yourself. I am not saying it will be easy - in fact, people say it is harder to stop than cigarette smoking. The important thing is that you can do it, with help! It will take work, but you can live without self-injury.

To help you decide if you have a problem, ask yourself these questions:
  1. Do you cut or burn your skin habitually?
  2. Do you feel compulsively drawn to cut, pierce, or burn your skin?
  3. Do you get “high” from the way the activity feels physically?
  4. Does the behavior consume your thoughts or interfere with your ability to function normally?
  5. Realistically, could you stop the behavior today if you wanted to?
  6. Do you use cutting, burning, piercing, compulsively exercising, or any other self-injurious behavior as your primary method of releasing internal tension or distress?
  7. Is your self-injuring behavior “ritualized,” meaning it must be done in a certain way, and more frequently?
  8. If you do not self-injure do you panic, get disorganized, or distressed?
“Yes” answers to any or all of these questions suggest that you should get help, and the earlier the better. Please call S.A.F.E. Alternatives at the number on the right (1-800-Don’t Cut) or visit their web site ( They have a great book you can order called “Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers,” as well.

Please take the first step and reach out for help!

Photo Credit: violater3
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.