A small sophomore girl sprawls across the grassy area near the side of the quad. She cheerfully sits with her friends during lunch. As the sun’s rays beat down, the laughing, dark-haired girl pushes the sleeves of her grey flannel shirt up to her elbows, revealing neat, horizontal scars repeating down her forearm.
This girl, like numerous other teens, participates in an activity in which teens and experts alike consider a growing trend—cutting.
Many people–mainly teens—engage in cutting because of deep psychological problems. However, a growing amount of young adults are seeking the “cutting sensation” out of curiosity.
Dr. Emil Rodalfa, the director of the counseling clinic at UC Davis believes that people inflict self-harm for countless reasons. One reason many teens begin cutting is curiosity about the activity. “Knowing that a friend cuts [is a reason for cutting],” Rodolfa said.
Intentional self-harm, especially cutting, has existed for years. Although every individual who cuts has varying personal reasons, most specialists agree that cutting is associated with the disability to manage emotions. “The trigger for cutting is an overwhelming and difficult emotion that cannot be regulated or expressed by the person,” UC Davis psychologist Dr. Jonathan Peretz said.
Peretz clarifies how cutting helps some control these difficult emotions. Self-harm can release endorphins in the brain to cause mental relief, distract from mental pain, or inflict physical pain to “show on the outside what’s going on emotionally on the inside,” Peretz said.
However, no matter what temporary relief cutting may provide, the act of self-harm is extremely dangerous. “Much as the case of certain drug use and even certain eating disorders, the constant triggering of the endorphins can make cutting a difficult habit to stop and keeps people stuck in the cycle of avoiding emotions rather than learning how to regulate them,” Peretz said.
Sophomore Jessie Muholland has several friends who either are previous cutters or are currently cutting. Muholland agrees with the view that cutting has become an unsettling “fad” in the past several years.
Muholland has friends who cut for psychological reasons, but notices other friends cutting “just to try it out because they see other people doing it,” Muholland said. “It is sort of like the new thing to do.”
Peretz agrees with this view that cutting among teens is unfortunately rising. “I believe that self-harm and self-mutilation is on the rise among young people and that makes me very sad,” Peretz said.
Sophomore Michelle Chin also has a friend who cut himself in the past. Like Muholland, Chin believes cutting isn’t the best way to deal with emotional pain. “It’s great being able to talk to someone who you’re completely comfortable with. And not over text or Facebook either, but in person,” Chin said.
Chin recognizes the current disturbing fascination with cutting in today’s teen society, but doesn’t believe that was the reason her friend was hurting himself. “He isn’t the kind of person to do that just for a trend,” she said.
Sophomore Nora Kasapligil was taken aback when she discovered the cutting habits of many of her friends. “I found out [about the cutting] through other friends or by the friend herself. I was confused because I hadn’t really heard about anything that would be upsetting enough for them to hurt themselves,” Kasapligil said.
While she used to think people cut themselves for serious reasons, “Now I feel like people [cut] for attention so that others feel sorry for them,” Kasapligil said.
Kasapligil believes cutting is never the right choice, regardless of the reasons behind the actions. “People should have respect for their bodies and themselves. Having self-respect is better on any scale,” Kasapligil said