Teens in Crisis: Cutting on the Rise

Causes of Cutting

What's the Trigger?

In a 1991 study of patients who cut themselves, researchers found that sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect and chaotic family conditions during childhood were "reliable predictors" of the amount and severity of cutting.

"The earlier the abuse began, the more likely the subjects were to cut and the more severe their cutting was," the study's authors noted. "Sexual abuse victims were most likely of all to cut." The study summarized that "neglect was the most powerful predictor of self-destructive behavior. This implies that although childhood trauma contributes heavily to the initiation of self-destructive behavior, lack of secure attachments maintains it. Those who could not remember feeling special or loved by anyone as children were least able to control their self-destructive behavior."

To be sure, cutters live in a world that seems far-removed. Physical wounds aside — the psychological wounds are so deep that it often takes years of therapy to get to the underlying root of the problem that drives self-injury.

Jaime sums up that world well: "I feel like I'm a lot different from like the people at my school and stuff because they haven't been through half the stuff that I have, you know, but no one knows that, you what I mean — like I keep a lot in my life to myself."