Cutting and Depression

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m not really sure how to explain this in a way you will understand. but here goes. I’m 17years old and ever sinse 8Th grade iv had an issue with cutting and scratching myself when i get angry and its mostly because my mom has yelled at me or gotten after me for something. because she always says that i give her attitude. but honestly i dont see how i have attitude because i dont throw a fit or anything like that. and there have been times where i figured why should i even live that nothing i ever do is good enough. i mostly feel like a failure sometimes. and iv tried to stop cutting. i can go for months but then start up again. and i get really anger at times where i just want to beat something. and i dont believe its healthy but my mom believes that theres nothing wrong with me. but i think there is. i dont know what to do, and the weird thing is. is when i was little and my mom would get after me id go to my room and bite myself or id say i dont deserve to live. Ive been to 2 counselor people and they never tested me for anything. the first one was more concerned on a certain person i couldn’t be around and the 2nd one was when i overdosed in 2009 and all he did was asked if i saw ghost or if i could predict the future and told me about a book i could read. and they never tested me for any signs of depression and stuff like that. I’m so lost. i hope you can help.

A. You are correct. Engaging in self-harm is not healthy. You seem to engage in this behavior when you become upset or angry. Below are three possible explanations for why you self-harm.

  1. The first is that when your emotions become overwhelming, you cut to reduce the intensity of your feelings. Some individuals report that cutting provides temporary emotional relief.

  2. A second possibility is that you lack effective coping mechanisms to deal with your emotions. It could be that your caregivers never modeled healthy emotional regulation. If a child is not taught correct coping skills, they often develop maladaptive strategies.
  3. The third reason may be related to a sense of inferiority and depression. Some individuals feel that they are unworthy of love or are unlovable. They perceive themselves as being a “bad person,” someone who doesn’t deserve happiness, only suffering. When an incident or emotional event arises, the individual who believes they are “bad” will often punish themselves. Their line of thinking is that “bad people deserve to punished.”

I have limited information about your history. From what you have revealed, you may have depression. Cutting is a not a symptom of depression but there is often a link between the two. The reason an individual engages in cutting behavior may be related to a negative self-image. Having a negative self-image is often indicative of depression. In addition, you mentioned that you overdosed in 2009. I am assuming that the overdose was an attempt to end your life or a cry for help. Suicidal ideation and a history of suicide attempts are often associated with depression.

The best way to know with certainty if depression is an accurate diagnosis is to be evaluated by a mental health professional. You mentioned that you have been to several. These visits did not help you but you should not give up on the idea of counseling. Continue to search for a mental health professional who you feel comfortable with and who can provide you with the best possible treatment.

Despite the fact that you may have depression I find your situation very encouraging. Even though your mother has not responded to your psychological needs in a satisfactory way, she supports your desire to attend treatment. There are many adolescents who do not have access to mental health treatment because their parents would never allow it. In this sense, you are very fortunate.

Don’t give up hope and please continue to search for a mental health professional who you like and trust. Finding the right therapist can make all the difference in your life. In the meantime, you should educate yourself about cutting and depression. I’m not suggesting that books are a cure but knowledge is empowering. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 29 Mar 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2011). Cutting and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/03/29/cutting-and-depression-2/