How to Stop Cutting

Self harming teenager

Stopping cutting includes finding the reasons for the behavior and building healthier ways to cope with distressing thoughts and emotions. This will reduce th e risk of this extreme form of self-destructive behavior, which can recur or escalate to severe injury or accidental death.

Management of Cutting

When skin cutting is repetitive or severe, or there is a risk of unintentional injury, treatment by a psychotherapist will be improve the chance of stopping the behavior. Effective management includes diagnosing and treating any underlying risk factors, including:

  • Developmental disabilities, such as autism in children and adults
  • Problems of personal and psychosocial identity and risk-taking behavior common to adolescents
  • Psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression, personality disorders, or the behavioral effects of childhood trauma
  • Psychosocial dysfunctions, such as substance, behavioral, and sexual addictions, and eating disorders

Additional therapy includes eliminating destructive thoughts and emotions and improving coping skills with standard supportive and behavioral psychotherapy. These therapies can reduce or extinguish the cutting behavior, although according to a 2010 Harvard University review, there are no valid studies on them in the treatment self-harm.

Supportive Therapy

According to the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, supportive therapy mobilizes a person's strengths to improve self-esteem and build coping skills, which are common problems in people who cut.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

The Psychology Today describes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a way of exploring the negative thoughts and emotions that lead to self-destructive behavior and replacing them with positive ones.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is an intensive form of CBT developed by a University of Washington psychologist to treat borderline personality disorder. A patient works actively with a therapist to identify and validate thoughts and feelings as a way to decrease their importance and make them easier to eliminate.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

Psychodynamic or psychoanalytical psychotherapy, according to the British Psychoanalytic Council helps a person gain deep understanding of their inner subconscious world to gain insight into what drives their behavior, which helps to extinguish it.

Mentalization Based Therapy

According to University College London, mentalization based therapy helps someone visualize and perceive (mentalize) their inner thoughts and feelings and speculate on those of others. This helps them understand themselves and connect with others and improve their insight and coping skills.


According to the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis can help a person gain control over their behavior. Psychot herapists u se it to help someone modify or eliminate dysfunctional thoughts and behavior, a problem for people who cut. It can be effective therapy for anyone who is receptive to hypnosis.

Inpatient therapy

Hospitalization for inpatient therapy is reserved for people who can't break the cycle of cutting, have a severe underlying psychological disorder, or are a danger to themselves.

How to Help Yourself

If you have a problem with cutting, there are things you can do to improve your coping skills and stop cutting before it gets worse:

  • Eliminate or control sources of stress that trigger your cutting.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs and avoid group thinking and encouragement from internet sites dedicated to cutting.

  • Avoid having implements of cutting around you.

  • Take care of and nurture yourself by eating and sleeping well and walking, or find other exercise.
  • Build a support group of trusted family or friends you can talk with when you are feeling stressed or distressed.
  • Find substitute coping activities for your negative emotions and stress such as a sport, hobby or a class with a friend.
  • Release and d ecrease stress through:
    • Journaling, which helps you examine and release your self-destructive thoughts by writing them down
    • Mindful meditation, which helps you focus on enjoying the present rather than reliving the traumas of your past
    • Relaxation imagery and self-hypnosis, which helps you find peace and serenity and tap into the power of your subconscious

Ask for Help

If you are having thoughts of cutting, or you are already cutting, ask for help before the problem gets worse. If your cutting problem is severe, talk to family, a friend, or your doctor. Don't hesitate to talk them if you are having thoughts of suicide or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

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