Why do people hurt or cut themselves?

Understanding thoughts of Self-Harm

     Why do people hurt or cut themselves is difficult question to answer. Difficult to answer because there can be a variety of reasons. It is something that someone who has thoughts of self-harm may not even be able to answer. We feel our perspective can make it easier to understand.

Why do people hurt or cut themselves

I think our first mistake when asking this question is we are looking at it from a mathematic approach. We think in terms of “well, if you are in pain, why would hurting yourself help? Pain plus pain does not equal relief”. This might make sense mathematically but psychologically or philosophically, not so much.  In fact, some might even argue that it does in fact bring them relief. Some might argue that before cutting they feel bad but during cutting those feelings go away. This makes understanding why those who have hurt themselves repeat this behavior. This helps us understand the question why do people hurt or cut themselves. It is during their self-harm where they believe they have found relief. They believe they have found something that gives them relief but only during this act. This encourages them to repeat it. It is however, a temporary relief and the only possible relief they see as obtainable. Imagine how frustrating it may be to see no solution to your problems/pain. Imagine discovering that the only relief you found to be effective is to hurt yourself. It’s a scary and shameful thought. It hurts our self-esteem and lowers our self worth. The act and shame that follow, unfortunately encourage us to continue in this behavior. We may tell ourselves not only is this the only thing that helps but the only thing that we also deserve. This is an untrue thought however and one we can overcome.

What if I told you that you are not so different from everyone else? Instead of asking, why do people hurt or cut themselves, we should ask why do all people. Cutting is actually similar to how a lot of people handle their problems. Please make no mistake, I am not excusing or condoning self-harm. However, understanding human nature and our reaction to adversity can help combat shame. This can also help us see that we are not alone. So let’s dig into that. Let’s take a look at how most people treat their problems. It is not uncommon to hear someone share of a difficult experience they are going through or have been through, and find ourselves surprised when they handle it well. In fact, many times we here people respond by saying things such as, “Wow, if that was me I would of” or “I can’t believe you didn’t” fill in the blank with a shameful reaction. We almost expect for us to act inappropriately when in the midst of adversity. Now that I think of it, what if this is our appropriately? The fact that we are shocked by someone acting in a healthy manner during a major stressor tells a lot about human nature. When we are cut off in traffic, we feel the need to flick that person off. When someone insults us, we think of an insult for them. When we are having a bad day, we want to drink our problems away. When we are unsatisfied with our partners, we have thoughts of cheating. True, while none of these reactions may cause physical pain or physical scarring. They do effect us emotionally and can scar us mentally. By nature, we like to think of our physical and mental selves as very different but they have more in common than we think. These negative responses, like cutting may bring a temporary feeling of relief but they too hurt us in the long run and can be habit forming. Getting angry to combat feelings of anger, using a depressant to fight feelings of depression, or adding to our relationship problems by adding problems to our relationship is the same logic as someone who uses pain to take away from their pain. Metaphorically, one could even argue literally, many of us use self-harm in attempt to solve our problems. This perspective helps us to see that we aren’t so different after all.

Question Your Thoughts



Did you know you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are merely an idea or opinion created by you but they are not you. That means just because we think something, we don’t have to follow through with it. Has every idea or opinion you’ve had been true? Remember this the next time you have a thought to hurt yourself? Just because I think it, doesn’t mean I should do it. Not all thoughts deserve to become actions. Here are some things we can do to stop thoughts of self-harm from becoming actions.


Talk About It

Some people think talking about thoughts of self-harm will make it worst. That is not true. In fact, talking to someone about you feelings is shown to decrease the chances of you acting on it. It’s important we are talking to the right person however. Talk to professionals and friends that lift us up.

Accept That These Are Just Thoughts

Understand and tell yourself, that this is just a thought. It is not something that we have to do. It is just a symptom of how we are currently feeling and acting on it will not make things get any better.

Commit to Getting Help

Make a deal with yourself to get better. Commit to the process of healing. Whether it’s through a support group, mental health counselor, or someone you can trust, talk to someone about what you are feeling. Trust the process and give yourself a chance to see how beautiful life can become.



When we ask the question, why do people hurt or cut themselves we can’t forget about mental health. Mental illness is often an accomplice of self-harm. Mental illness creates the landscape that allows these thoughts to grow.  It is extremely important that we work with licensed professional to address our mental health needs. Often times we can decrease and even eliminate thoughts of self-harm by treating our mental health. Whether it’s through therapy, medication, or a combination of both, it is important that we do not avoid getting the help that we need. Please talk to someone today!

Dial: 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

We’d love to hear from you. Comment your thoughts or feelings on the article why do people hurt or cut themselves below. Be a part of our community. If your too uncomfortable for that at the moment but would still like to talk, reach out to us at

Grow Again Counseling

By: Jordan Joachim

Contact Us