Desperate and Cutting

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. What should i do? self harm. I ve been cutting my upper legs for about 6 years lately its become so bad without obvious explanation. all i think about is cutting i told my mother but she told me to get over it i dont even know why i bothered (i take care of her).i dont know what kind of help to get do i need a psychologist, therapist…. ive gone to a lcsw in the past with no help I’m also a recovering bulimic. I’m desperate. Please advise. Thank you.

A. I’m very sorry you have been struggling. Individuals often engage in cutting behavior when they do not know how to handle their strong, negative emotions. Some individuals who cut report that the only time they feel emotional relief, although temporary, is when they cut. Others do it because they feel emotionally numb. For them, cutting provides an emotional release.

Another reason why individuals may engage in self-harm is because they want to punish themselves. They feel that they deserve to suffer or “pay a price” for a perceived mistake. Those are a few reasons why some people cut. There are many other reasons to explain why.

You have been cutting for six years but lately the problem has worsened. You’re not sure why. It may be that your stress level has increased and therefore so has your desire to cut.

I am glad you are open to seeking treatment because it is very important that you do. Cutting can be dangerous. It is usually a sign that someone is enduring a great amount of emotional suffering.

You saw a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in the past but he or she was not helpful. Not all LCSW’s are created equal. The same is true for psychologists and any other type of psychotherapists. Some psychotherapists are simply better than others and it doesn’t necessarily matter which degree they have. Although some may have their personal preferences or biases, no one type of therapist or degree is “officially” better than another. They do, however, have different types of training and years of education. Here is an article that explains the distinctions between therapist degrees.

My advice would be to do the following: Click this link. It will take you to a website which lists licensed therapists in a directory. If you type in your zip code you can search for therapists who practice in your community. I would suggest reading through their profiles. Call 5 to 10 different therapists of varying types (LCSWs, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, marriage or family therapists, etc.). Speak to them about the issues you are struggling with. Try to target therapists who specialize in or treat emotional disorders, self-harm, stress reduction, eating disorders, or some variation of these issues. Ask specific questions about how they would help you. You can ask questions such as: Have you worked with individuals who engaged in self harm/cutting behaviors? If so, were those cases successful? How did you help those individuals? How could you help me? What can I expect from therapy? Can you help me to stop cutting?

The more questions you ask the better. Choose the therapist who you connect best with over the phone. Following this procedure may be an efficient way to find a therapist. It may take some time but if you put in the effort and follow through with treatment, your life has the potential to substantially improve. Thanks for writing. Please take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Jun 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Desperate and Cutting. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/06/28/desperate-and-cutting/