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How to Help a Boyfriend Who Cuts and Self-Harms

These four tips on helping a boyfriend who self-harms are inspired by a reader who was brave enough to say “my boyfriend cuts himself.” Can you help him stop cutting? Possibly – but there is only so much you can do. The first step is to look past what he says he wants and focus on what’s best for him. And that might involve getting help from a parent, teacher, coach or counselor.

Are you the parent of someone who cuts? Read Helping Teens Who Cut: Understanding and Ending Self-Injury by Michael Hollander – a leading authority on self-injury. He spells out the facts about cutting and self-harm, helps parents know what to do to make it stop. You’ll learn how overwhelming emotions lead some teens to hurt themselves, and how proven treatments – such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) – can help your child stop cutting. You’ll also learn practical communication and problem-solving skills that can reduce family stress, making it easier to care for yourself and your teen during the recovery process.

If you are a teen who cuts, look at Stopping the Pain: A Workbook for Teens Who Cut and Self Injure by Lawrence Shapiro PhD. It’ll help you explore why you self-injure and give you lots of ideas how you can stop. The book will help you learn new skills for dealing with issues in your life, reduce your stress, and reach out to others when you need to.


Here’s what my reader said, and why I wrote these tips for helping a boyfriend who self-harms and cuts. She said: “I’m 16 years old and so is my boyfriend. I’ve recently seen a new side of him. He finally opened up to me. He has depression, anxiety, and is suicidal. He self-harms to get by. I asked for his lighters and he gave them to me. It’s been a week since he’s burned. … He had a breakdown, and cried and cried. He even tried to cut, but I took it away. He made me promise not to tell anyone because he didn’t want to end up back in [a mental institution] again. I don’t want to tell anyone because I don’t want him to feel I betrayed him and not open up to me anymore, but I would feel so guilty for not speaking up if something happened to him. He’s never happy anymore and it seems there’s nothing I can do. Please help me.” ~ Danielle, on How to Cope With Depression in a Relationship.

And, remember that he told you that he is mutilating himself because he wants to stop. He can’t contain the pain any longer; he is reaching you to you for help. How will you help him?

4 Ways to Help a Boyfriend Who Self-Harms

The most important tip for helping someone who cuts is to talk to an adult who understands self-harm. Cutting is often a way to cope with emotional pain, and you need to help your boyfriend find healthier ways to deal with that pain.

It’s complicated, though, because you can’t change him or fix him unless he takes responsibility for his own actions and life. If you’re scared he’ll leave you, you might want to learn about overcoming fear of abandonment.

Realize how serious and possibly life-threatening depression and cutting can be

Depression has been described as the “black dog” – it’s a heavy thick black blanket that clouds your thinking, feeling, thoughts, energy, and behavior. Depression drains your boyfriend’s energy, optimism, and motivation. He can’t just “snap out of it” by sheer force of will – he needs HELP.

You need to treat your boyfriend’s depression, cutting, and other self-harming behaviors like a life-threatening illness. Learn about it, from books like Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation. Read websites like HelpGuide’s Teen Depression. Google the Distress Line – it’s confidential and free. In reaching out for help and information, you’ll learn ways to help a boyfriend who self-harms, and find tips that you can’t think of yourself.

Tell someone you trust that your boyfriend is cutting himself

boyfriend self harms cuts

My boyfriend cuts himself

Even if you promised your boyfriend that you wouldn’t tell, you HAVE to talk to an adult you trust. If he doesn’t get help, your boyfriend will keep cutting or burning himself – and may even do worse. What if he attempts suicide? What if his cuts or burns cause permanent, serious damage? I know you’ll feel guilty and like you betrayed him if you tell others, but you can’t keep this to yourself. It’s not good for you or him to keep it a secret.

It’s almost like a parent with a child: the parent doesn’t like to discipline the child or hurt him, but the parent has to do what she thinks is best. The parent has to put aside how the child might feel, and do what she thinks is right.


If you want to break up with him but are worried what he’ll do or say, read What to Do When Your Boyfriend Says He’ll Kill Himself If You Leave.

Accept short-term pain for long-term gain

When you tell an adult you trust that your boyfriend is anxious, depressed, and self-harming, your boyfriend may not want to speak to you again. He may call you names, say he hates you, or not want to speak to you again. That is the price you’ll have to pay to help him.

Helping someone who is in pain, who is depressed, or who hurts himself won’t be easy. But, the short-term pain of “betraying” him is worth the long-term gain of him getting help – and of you knowing that you did the right thing by attempting to get help for him.

Realize that you can’t solve your boyfriend’s problems

You can take away his lighter or knife, but it won’t help him get to the root of the problem. You can have sex with him, but it won’t make him feel better in the long run. You can keep his secrets, but it won’t show him that you care. In fact, keeping it a secret that you have a depressed boyfriend who cuts and self-harms shows him that you don’t care enough!

The only way to help a boyfriend with anxiety and self-harming behaviors is to connect him with an adult who cares, who can help him find healthy ways to deal with his pain.

The best way to help a depressed boyfriend is to talk to a guidance counselor at school, a depression helpline, or even a social worker.

If you have any comments or suggestions on how to help a depressed boyfriend who cuts or self-harms, please respond below. I welcome your thoughts, but I can’t offer personal advice.

Research from Lund University in Sweden suggests that self-harm is common among young people. Many have at one time scratched, punctured or cut themselves or hit their head forcefully against a wall, and the behavior is almost as common among boys as girls. If you need more information on cutting, self-harm, or self-injury, please get in-person help. Talk to someone who can give you personal guidance and support. Don’t rely on the internet, especially if you’re boyfriend is actively cutting himself.

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.


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xo


16 thoughts on “How to Help a Boyfriend Who Cuts and Self-Harms”

  1. He’s 25 and I’m 19 and he promised not to do it again but I don’t know if I can believe it, those wounds are very deep and look extremely painful even though he said he doesn’t even feel the pain

  2. My boyfriend and I was fighting and when he got home he started cutting again I said for every cut he makes Ill do the same he thought I was joking at first… Until I did it he made 5 2 the chest I made 5 on the anklei he continued but when I showed him im not joking he immediately stopped and begged me not to continue He swore never to cut again….

  3. My boyfriend keeps cutting himself and he has them on his thighs and left forearm and he’s already promised me 3 times but I don’t want to give up on him. So what should I do?

  4. Hi im jessica & im 31 & i live with a cutter who suffers with anxiety depression & fibromyalgia & is bipolar & suicidal he is 44 & he is my fiance. We have been together for almost 8 years now. Yes there have been WAY more bad times then good but i been learning to help him through everything on a daily. His reasons for cutting are all from his past he was molested as a child by a friend of his mother & his mother walked out on the family shortly after then he witnessed his grandparents death’s (they took him in when his mother left) then his ex who he has 2 daughters with will not let him see them unless he pays (not child support). So as you can tell his mind is very heavy with so much of his past pains that he thinks & feels self mutilation & death is the only thinks that would make life better But since hes been with me he has been going to seek help in many ways & has learned how to trust & has accepted my family as his. Yes my family knows about his past & his many medical issues. Back to me learning… Well i occasionally go to his appointments (all his doctors & therapists & whom ever know me) & get updates on him (& yes he is alright with that) as well as give updates or concerns & there are a few meetings that i attend to learn more about how to help him everyday. So every day i wake up at 5am get myself in order (i have my own health issues) then by 7am i get him up make sure he takes his meds then exercise then some breakfast & then he usually goes to play on the computer (we are both unable to work) & i head to my grandparents to help them get ready for the day (grandpa has dementia & grandma has mobility issues) then im home by 1pm to get lunch for me & him before my youngest cousin gets dropped off while her parents work til about midnight & then he helps attend to her till dinner (4pm-6pm) then back to tending till she falls asleep & then she goes home & the bedtime for us. That is our daily… So most of the time LATELY its been good but not always.
    My point is to all those whom have a cutter or self mutilator in your life please get them help & stick by them for as long as possible. Also keep in mind that YOU WERE NOT THE START OF THE PROBLEM! Yes you may feel like you are or that you add to it which may be true if you dont know how to handle things but you really are not. My guy has had his set backs but some how we always manage to get through it & recently a mutal friend has found herself in the same position as myself. She said that life on this side sucks (meaning having to go through so much to help) well yes & no love is always easy. Life is worth having when you have at least one good reason to keep going. My guy confessed its “finally having a loving family”

  5. I have a girlfriend. She cuts followed by abusive drinking and smoking. She isn’t in a good frame of mind. We are in a long distance relationship. She has promised me several times she won’t do these things again but she does them again and again. We recently broke up because i don’t have any plans to visit or settle down in her city and samw goes for her as i dont wanna give her false hopes. Atnforst we thought we would manage but no it isn’t thatbeasy. I am also not feeling mentally good because if all this now. she says she loves me but i don’t think so. Have there been love she wouldn’t have repeated things. She needs help and try to help her but it is all in vain. She was crying the whole night and i was feeling so guilty and filled with self doubt. I don’t know i need a way out. Help me somebody.

  6. Dear Sarah,

    You love your boyfriend so much – I can see how much you want to help him! But, the sad truth is that you can’t. You can’t tell him anything that will stop him from cutting or harming himself. He needs help — he needs the kind of attention and care that a psychologist or counselor can give.

    Don’t try to change him, or to convince him that he’s beautiful and there’s nothing wrong with him. His problems go much deeper than that! You can’t stop him.

    Call a help line, and ask how you can be his girlfriend without trying to be his counselor. You can’t save him, but you can be there for him. Don’t let yourself spiral into anxiety or fear for him. You must separate yourself from his emotional struggles.

    My best advice is for you to get emotionally healthy. Focus on staying strong and peaceful, and your strength will rub off on him.

    There is so much involved in self-cutting and self-harm…learn as much as you can.

    I wish you all the best with your boyfriend. May you find a healthy balance between being his girlfriend, and keeping your boundaries so you don’t spiral downwards.

    With prayers,
    Laurie

  7. My boyfriend and I are both fifteen and have been together for a little over a year now. Recently, he has been dealing with overwhelmingly anxious feelings of self loathing. His father has been trying to schedule appointments with a psychologist, but so far the only person who knows half of what has been going on is me. He cuts his thighs, and he punches walls, and he bites himself and scratches at his injured knuckles and he self harms. It kills me. I want him to get better but I don’t know what to do anymore. I have told him over and over he doesn’t need to do those things to himself, and that he is a beautiful person, and that there’s nothing wrong with him. I try to show him I love him every single day. Nothing works. As soon as something goes wrong, returns to his state of anxiety and self hatred. Most of the time these feelings surface is when he is thinking of me sexually and tries to touch me and I stop him, because we are either in a public place or I don’t feel comfortable, and then he becomes disgusted with himself and hurts himself. He blames himself for everything. I’m in desperate need for help. I can’t keep going everyday knowing that this is happening and just let it go. But I don’t know what else I can do. Nothing that I tell him works.

    1. I’m so worried about him. And I am scared. I need all of the help I can get, it tears me apart to see him like this and not have a clue as to how I can help. I’m worried that even when he begins seeing the counselor nothing will work. I’m honestly hoping they can diagnose him with something, whether it be an anxiety disorder or something else so that they may be able to put him on medication. But then even with that I’m worried that won’t be enough to help. And when if he doesn’t need medication? How will he get better then? I just need him to get better. I care about him so much.

  8. My boyfriend has a medical condition that knocks his confidence and brings him a lot of emotional and physical pain. We’ve been together for just over 7 months and he recently opened up about the lengths of self harm he goes to. I knew he was depressed about the condition and i persuaded him to see the school counsellor but he doesnt tell him everything. I found out that he burns his feet, cuts his body, hit himself with a hammer, punches walls and sticks things up his finger and toe nails. I was crushed when i found out, not because self harm repulses me but because of how much pain he’s been in and i didnt know or help him. I dont know what to do. He’s got the counsellor but wont open up about everything and blames it on trust issues. I fought so hard to get one for him and he’s throwing it away. I know you said they have to take responsibility but that doesnt stop my anger and guilt. He did it again tonight with a stanley knife, he promised to try and stop but i dont know how to help him further.

  9. He cuts. I want to cut when he does so he knows it hurts me but I know that will just make him feel guilty. But I’m so tempted to..I want him to know it hurts.

  10. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    If your boyfriend cuts and harms himself, you need to talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep this to yourself, and try to keep yourself as emotionally healthy as possible. This means not taking on his problems, and not falling into the trap of thinking you can heal or help him. You can’t. Cutting and self-harming is a serious emotional healthy issue, and you can’t fix his problems. It may sound harsh, but you need to know where you begin and end, and where he does.

    Learn as much as you can about boyfriends who cut and self-harm, so you’re informed. But know that you can’t cure or fix his problems. All you can do is love him and be there for him – without getting enmeshed in his emotional health issues.

    My prayer is that both you and your boyfriend find healthy ways to cope with the issues you’re facing, and that your relationship grows big, strong and healthy!

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  11. Researchers at the University of Bristol, the University of Oxford, and University College London found that teenagers who self-harm and cut themselves have an increased risk of developing mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

    People who self-harm and cut were also more likely to self-harm in the future and to have substance abuse problems, including using illegal drugs, smoking cigarettes, and drinking too much.

    If you’re hoping to learn how to help a boyfriend who self-harms and cuts, it’s important to remember that this is a serious emotional health issue. Don’t try to help him alone — get support from someone who knows how to deal with it professionally and effectively.

  12. Dear Life!!!

    Thank you for being here, and sharing your story. You have alot of courage, and I’m proud that you’re speaking out about how your boyfriend cuts — and how his cutting affects you.

    Do you know anyone that you can talk to about this? There are adults in your life who have dealt with cutting and self-harming — but you may not know who they are unless you ask them about it. I’m really glad you talked to the counselor at school, and I hope you keep talking to her. That’s really important, to open up and share what you’re going through.

    My prayer for you is that you find the strength and courage to not be responsible for your boyfriend. We can only be responsible for our own actions, and we can only help the people we love if they are ready to help themselves. We need to know where our responsibility ends, and where theirs begins…and that can be a complicated thing to learn. It takes time, and help!

    I pray you are able to find healing. May you find freedom from emotional pain, and healthy ways to deal with stress and grief. I pray for your boyfriend, that he stops cutting and harming himself. I also pray that you both find the help you need – whether it’s in counselors, parents, books, websites, or even friends who are wise about the whys and hows of cutting.

    This door is open – you’re welcome to come back anytime and let me know how you are!

    xo
    Laurie

  13. Hi, I am a victim of Cutting and my Boyfriend is also. I am 14 and He is 15. I came to this website to tell all you parents that have teens that cut some reasons why they do what they do. Why I do, and also why he does. I started cutting when I was 13. I got blamed for rapping my sisters :( . I carved blamed into my leg and just went from there. I cut yesterday morning. I went to school and seen my boyfriend. He told me his parents are sending him to the meadows and I asked him for what. He lifted up his sleeve and showed me his cuts. Tears where running down my face, as I said “baby don’t cut”. We went to our classes, I sat in my class and was writing him a note. After class I looked for him at my locker, I waited to see if he was gonna come out of his class and he nvr did. I knew something was wrong because he always went to my locker. I was worried and asked people if they knew were he was. I finally got an answer from this girl and she said ” some old man came and got him”. I went to gym and asked a girl that was down that way who all was down there she said my boyfriend was down there and so was his parents. I got really worried because I didn’t know what was happening. Before lunch I went to his locker to see if his stuff was in there and everything (even the pictures of us) was out of his locker. I started to cry and I knew this time was different because my friend grabbed my arm and I jerked away from her. I have nvr done that before ever. I didn’t eat lunch, I just cried and cried. I asked to go to the bathroom and just sat there and cried. I came back and everyone was talking about me for crying so I asked to go to the nurse because I had a headache. After that I was walkin to the guidance counselor and I seen his parents. They didn’t see me I don’t think but I went up and talked to the counselor… Later that day I get a call from his mom telling me hes getting sent away ..the place is three hrs away and they were heading there at the moment.. Awhile after that I got a txt from his moms phone and it was him (: . I was happy to talk to him. We talked for maybe an hr or so. He told me he loved me and told me not to forget that or him. I told him I wouldn’t and that I loved him to, Very Much. He had to go then and didn’t hear anything for awhile. They got there around 7:00pm and she txted me around 8:30pm and told me, That he would be there from 5-7 days at the most 10 if he listened up there, and that he couldn’t call me and talk to me while there because he is under 18. I got a txt from his mom that night but didn’t see it the nxt morning. She cried when they left there because that’s her baby, I also cried. and cried more when she said she cried leaving there. ..I pray for him more than I pray for myself. I pray every day and night. Im not sure why he cut that time but, I think he cuts honestly because, he has a lot of problems in his life and hurt in his life and don’t know what to do. He ran away, went back home and cut. His mom seen the blood and then seen his arm and it went from there. I came to this website to find help for him and to see what I can do to get him to stop and just looking at everything I started crying and seeing what he does to himself. I felt ashamed that I CUT!! now seeing that he does and knowing how bad it hurts me.. Well he has to transfer schools once he gets out and wont be in my school anymore. That’s hard on me because having him there and used to the things we did and meeting at lockers holding hands ect. I know now is DONE :'( . My pulse has been extreme since hes been gone.. NO MATTER WHAT I WILL ALWAYS LOVE HIM AND WILL BE THERE FOR HIM NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS

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