Baby-cut syndrome

What is it?

This term was created on the 16th of January 2018 by Malika from Selfharmerproblems in an Instagram post. It is defined as a feeling you’re not hurting yourself well enough and therefore have no valid struggles or are a bad self harmer. This feeling can also fuel a sense of competition and comparison in self harmers, either with themselves along their journey or between self harmers. This can manifest as a sense of pride if someone with more minor self harm wounds or scars is encountered, or a feeling of shame if someone with bigger wounds or scars is encountered.

Why this name?

This name comes from the expression “baby cuts” that is often used in the online self harm community. People will often describe their self harm wounds as baby cuts, implying that they aren’t severe enough.

Is it an official or diagnosis?

It is not an official term nor a diagnosis and was not created by mental health professionals. This notion was created by an advocate with lived experience of self harm to describe the feeling she had and saw in others like her.

Why do people feel this way?

We know this is a very complex emotion that might seem very difficult to understand for people that haven’t personally dealt with self harm. Even self harmers that have felt it have trouble understanding it. The explanation we can give is that sometimes you feel as if self harm is the only thing you’re good at, and therefore it can be distressing to lose that sense of accomplishment. This is also part of how addiction works, it will never be satisfied and will always want to go further.

What can I do to help it?

If you are suffering from it:

  1. If it is distressing to you, protect yourself from the content that triggers you and don’t go seek it out. Unfollow or unsubscribe from accounts that make you feel this way.

  2. Know it will never feel enough. The person you’re comparing yourself to if most likely also feeling this way. No matter what you imagine, it will never feel like it’s enough, so might as well stop here.

  3. Remember that self harm is self harm. No matter the severity of the wounds, the fact that you are hurting your body to deal with emotional struggles is dangerous and require treatment.

If a loved one or a patient self harms:

  1. Acknowledge that this might be a feeling they have. They might not be able to express it or explain it, so you may need to be the one that mentions this topic in a gentle and non-judgmental way.

    You can for example say “I have heard that sometimes, self harmers feel like they don’t hurt themselves well enough and feel in competition with each other. That must be hard to deal with. Have you felt this way?”

  2. Be mindful not to say or do things that could feed into this feeling. Try to comment as little as possible on the severity of the self harm – of the wounds or scars, but also of the behavior. Do not compare the severity of the self harm to other times the person has done it, nor to other people struggling with self harm.

    Here are phrases you can try to avoid:

    • It’s not as bad as last time/as this other person I know.

      We know you probably meant well and had no intentions of hurting our feelings. But this can make them feel like they failed at harming themselves and should do “better” next time – aka hurt themselves more.

    • You have more/less scars or wounds than this other person.

      Even if you are trying to reassure them, both can feed into this competitive mindset and the comparison, and ultimately can make the feeling worse.

Video about baby-cut syndrome: