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Night after night, Dr. Drew Pinsky talks with teenagers on his call-in radio show Loveline. Teens ask for help with a variety of problems and, almost every night, call to confess they've been cutting themselves. Dr. Drew says cutting is a very serious problem, and if parents of cutters don't take notice, their children could be scarred in more ways than one for the rest of their lives.
Erin E. White: What is cutting?
Dr. Drew: It is an attempt at bodily mutilation, usually with a sharp object, and is rarely with the intent to harm. In other words, they're not trying to kill themselves. They're actually trying to get a certain emotional release from the experience of the pain.
EW: Who is typically drawn to this type of behavior?
Dr. Drew: It's a sign of severe psychiatric pathology, however, because it has become so widely discussed, kids are copycatting and kids are picking up on this as an option. So, we've seen it more in recent years. The people who are drawn [to cutting] are a mixed bag; it is primarily people that are severely disturbed. I think the most common population would be trauma survivors.
People who have had severe childhood traumas lack the ability to regulate emotions and, as a result, gravitate toward whatever primitive means they can come up with. It is not the average healthy 16-year-old that is cutting herself when she gets a bad grade on a math exam. It is a kid with real problems. If a kid shows up cutting, they have to see a doctor. This is a sign that something is very wrong.
EW: Are females more likely to engage in cutting?
Dr. Drew: Yes, in a sense. I have an aphorism that colleague of mine taught me, which is: "Men act out, and women act in." As such, men go out and do violent things, while women tend to perpetrate violence against themselves.
EW: Is cutting a cry for help?
Dr. Drew: It is not a cry for help. People are ashamed of cutting, and they hide it. They usually [cut] in places that are covered by clothing, they do it on their thighs on the inner surface of their arms and they'll carefully hide it. Often, parents don't know about it for years.
The health risks of cutting