These Everyday Phrases May Trigger Self-Harmers

January 14, 2015 Jennifer Aline Graham

Everybody has something that makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up. It may be the sound of nails on a chalkboard or the smell a certain food they cannot stand. Certain words can even make people’s skin crawl for reasons other people may not understand. And there are certain phrases that could trigger emotions when heard by those who self-harm. Those who do not struggle with self-injury may not see some of these phrases as anything but an ordinary, everyday statements. Even though certain things may seem normal to one person, they may be seen and heard in a totally different light and trigger self-harmers.

During the years I struggled with self-harm, almost everything around me became a self-injury trigger. My mind was so focused on harming my body that when I looked at a soda can, I could only see the sharp edge of the can tab. When washing my hands, I barely noticed the paper towels – I only saw the rough edge of the dispenser.

Even though physical surroundings can be difficult to handle when at a low, words can also be an issue. Specific spoken and printed words can cause a self-harmer’s thoughts to bounce angrily in their mind. Some of these frustrations may seem silly in the eyes of those not struggling with self-harm, but those who deal with this addiction do understand.

Self-Harm Trigger #1: “Did You Cut Yourself?”

If someone sees a mark and acknowledges it, they may ask, “Did you cut yourself?” While they may not be asking if you intentionally hurt your body, the mind of a self-harmer may instantly jump to that conclusion. When someone who self-harms hears this, they may become uncomfortable and possibly defensive while the individual who asked the question may not have meant it to be that way at all.

Certain phrases may mean nothing to you but may trigger self-harmers. Read about common phrases that can trigger self-injury.

The best way for someone who struggles with self-injury to handle this question is not to think of it in such a personal sense. Realize that the person who is asking is most likely not trying to attack you and is asking out of genuine worry. It is also important for everyone to think before they say something because, like this situation, the wording of a simple question could make someone uneasy.

Self-Harm Trigger #2: “Stop Cutting” or “Did You Cut?”

Back in the days of elementary school, these phrases were heard quite often in the lunch line. Even though these are not popular statements for teens and adults, it can still be heard when working in a school or daycare setting.

Even though these statements do not mean physical self-harm, someone who does self-injure may hear those phrases and panic (and no one wants panic when working at a daycare). When it comes to these sentences, the best response would be to give out an alternative phrase and find appropriate coping skills to help manage the anxiety.

Self-Harm Trigger #3: “Cut and Paste”

This may seem absolutely ridiculous, but I guarantee I am not the only person who has dealt with self-harm (in the past) who has seen “cut and paste” and not felt some sort of urge to self-harm. Just the word itself can make all other positive thoughts disappear and the negative ones remain. When it comes to the mind of someone addicted to self-harm, visual words too can trigger intense emotions.

It’s important to realize how simple, everyday phrases can affect different kinds of people. While some people handle certain situations one way, others may not be able to do the same. Think before you say and think before you act – because you never know what the reaction may be.

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APA Reference
Aline, J. (2015, January 14). These Everyday Phrases May Trigger Self-Harmers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Author: Jennifer Aline Graham

February, 5 2015 at 12:46 am

hmm the first one bothered me the most if I had actually cut myself, but I don't think cut and paste ever did. A common phrase that got to me was grinning from ear to ear, because of visual associations. Oh and the steakhouse that we lived near called "cut". Yeah walking by a big red neon sign saying cut, doesn't really help fight urges.

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