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Emotional Health

Cutting: How to Get Help

What to Know About Self-Injury

People cope with emotional pain, stress and anxiety in many ways, and not all of them are healthy. Self-injury, such as cutting, provides a temporary but dangerous release of tension, and is a sign that a person is suffering from a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety.

Here’s what to know and how to get help if you, or someone you know, is cutting.

Signs of Self-Injury

  • Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises or other wounds
  • Scars
  • Wearing long sleeves or long pants, even in hot temperatures
  • Struggles in interpersonal relationships
  • Behavioral and emotional instability, unpredictability and impulsivity
  • Statements of helplessness, hopelessness or worthlessness

If you have harmed yourself or know someone who is hurting himself, it’s time to get help. The brief respite that self-injury brings may lead to infections and a compulsive need to keep self-injuring. The behavior can even be fatal if the injuries become severe.

Where to Get Help

The first step in getting treatment is to talk to someone in your support system. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a healthcare provider, a spiritual leader or any other person you trust, tell somebody that you have been hurting yourself.

It’s also important to see a physician or mental health specialist for a mental health assessment, diagnosis and treatment plan. Northwestern Medicine Behavioral Health offers comprehensive mental health assessments, treatment programs and therapy, and is dedicated to helping you reclaim a healthy and productive life.