Home  >  My Life  >  Reflections

Turning Emotional Pain into Physical: Why Do People Cut?

You may be wondering, why do people cut? Cutting is like any addiction. It is how a person learns to curb their internal pain through external means.

why do people cut

There are some behaviors that people exhibit that seem to make no sense at all. Cutting is a habit that not much is known about, specifically because those who do it, keep it well hidden from others in their life. Why do people cut? Well, people who cut themselves do so for deep-seeded reasons that aren’t easy to understand.

People don’t typically just start cutting themselves, or even consciously understand why they are performing the ritual at all. There was likely a time when they hurt themselves while having an intense emotional feeling.

As a result, they recognized that it was much easier to deal with the surface feeling of pain than to consider the much deeper pain that was going on internally.

The next time, they decided to cut themselves on purpose. Finding relief, they tried it again, and before the individual knew it, they were using it as a behavior to release the inward turmoil they feel.

Demi Lovato put a face to cutting

Demi Lovato provides us some clue to the question, why do people cut? One of the most famous people to recently tell of her private shame of cutting was Demi Lovato. A very courageous woman, she came out publicly to admit that she was suffering from mental illness that involved cutting herself.

Although shocking to many who had never heard of it before, it may be more prevalent than anyone knows. The behavior is likely something most keep hidden and suffer through silently.

Lovato explained to the world that the pressure she felt to always be thin, and to be an onstage “persona,” was way more than she could handle emotionally. For someone who has a deep need to please others, never feeling good enough is a hard thing to handle. [Read: Ways volunteer work can help heal depression]

The continual articles about her weight fluctuations, the introspection into her life, and the need to succeed from very early on in her youth, were all conditions that led to her addiction to cutting.

Why do people cut, and what are the risk factors to cutting?

If you’re still wondering, why do people cut, let’s look at some of the risk factors for it. People who feel the sting of something emotionally hurtful, so much so that they find it hard to function, cut themselves to feel something real and outside of the pain that they can’t get away from.

Emotional wounds have no bandage. Often, it is associated with feelings of self-loathing and internal rage.

Cutting can be associated with having too many demands placed upon you and not enough coping skills to deal with the overwhelming feelings of failure and fear.

Sometimes the behavior is a result of not feeling good enough, thin enough, or continually wanting to be someone other than you are. Other times, it is a means to feel powerful and in control of your own feelings and emotions. [Read: Dating someone with depression – Is it ever worth it?]

Many cutters are people who have been abused

When a person is abused, it is not uncommon for them to internalize the abuse. The only way for them to make sense of what has been done to them, or to rationalize the situation and find a way to cope, is to make themselves the perpetrator.

They turn the hatred on themselves, believing that they must have done something to deserve the treatment they received. If they were better people, they wouldn’t have been the victim of abuse.

In cases of sexual abuse, if they had spoken up or said something, the abuse could have been stopped. It is that type of rationalization that leads to internalizing self-loathing and wanting to self-punish. [Read: 21 signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking in your life]

Cutting can also be cathartic

When extreme pressure is placed on someone to do things that they may not be capable of, either physically or emotionally, it can feel like a pressure cooker. Cutting is a way to release some of that pent-up emotion and stress.

A way to deal with the pain in an immediate way, it allows them to break it all open and to have a little bit of healing. The problem is that it never lasts long enough, which is how it becomes an addiction.

Lack of emotional intimacy

Most people who cut themselves have never had healthy or real emotional attachments to other people. Never learning to communicate their feelings, they are completely unaware of what to do with all their thoughts and feelings.

They have no idea how to get their emotions out in the open so that they don’t sit and burn inside. Without a way to express the pain that they are experiencing, it overwhelms them. The only way to deal with the pain is to make it into something physical. [Read: 15 types of toxic relationships to watch out for]

A person typically cuts when they feel desperate. It is their first reaction to painful or difficult situations where they feel disappointed by either things or people.

Instead of taking on more emotional pain or hating themselves more by being disappointed in their own failures, they cut to suspend the internal feelings momentarily. When they cut, they deal with the initial pain on the surface, and never have to go beyond that pain to work on the deeper wounds that lie underneath. [Read: 19 signs of emotional damage and ways to get past them]

Cutting is like any other addiction

Like any other addiction, cutting is a way to take away the feelings that someone doesn’t want to handle. It is similar to taking a drink for an alcoholic. An alcoholic or drug user knows that once the effects of the chemicals take over, they no longer have to deal with the emotions that drive them to drink or take drugs. Cutting, although a different type of behavior, is a similar addiction.

The cutting itself allows the individual not to feel the real sting of what is way more painful. The pent-up anger, rage, out of control feelings, or deep-seeded depression that someone feels is way more wounding than some physical cuts on their skin.

External wounds will heal, but the problem is that cutting is an addiction that keeps people from getting the help they need to figure out where the self-loathing is coming from and how to cure themselves of it. [Read: We accept the love we think we deserve – A real life experience]

How to overcome cutting

The key to overcoming the addiction of cutting is to be honest with, not only yourself, but others about what you have been doing to mask your pain. Those who cut are not destined to hurt themselves forever.

If they can find a way to forgive themselves, a better outlet to let their emotions out, and someone to trust to help them work through their internal issues, cutting is a totally curable mental health condition that has an excellent recovery prognosis. [Read: Why we need to break down the stigma of mental illness]

A combination of therapy and behavioral modification can help a person find better ways to satiate their internal conflicts and to deal with the emotional pain they feel in a much healthier and productive way.

Getting to the heart of why a person feels so emotionally out of control can help them to find more effective ways of dealing with stress.

[Read: How to stop overthinking – 11 strategies for more peace]

If you are someone who cuts, or you are wondering why do people cut *or suspect that you know someone who does*, it is nothing to be ashamed of. There is help available, but only you can take that step.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life.

Julie Keating
A writer isn’t born, but created out of experiences. No lack of subject matter, my life reads more like fiction than anything that could have been imagined in...
Follow Julie on