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Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation
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Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  1,286 ratings  ·  76 reviews
Nearly a decade ago, Cutting boldly addressed a traumatic psychological disorder now affecting as many as two million Americans and one in fifty adolescents. More than that, it revealed self-mutilation as a comprehensible, treatable disorder, no longer to be evaded by the public and neglected by professionals. Using copious examples from his practice, Steven Levenkron trac ...more
Paperback, 269 pages
Published May 17th 1999 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published September 2nd 1998)
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Books On Self-Injury
11th out of 71 books — 152 voters
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Medicine and Literature
306th out of 990 books — 1,195 voters

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Community Reviews

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Oct 30, 2009 Danielle rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: To the morbidly curious.
Shelves: psychology, loathed
Okay, fine - this book provides some interesting insight into the world of cutters, and why they do what they do. Clinically, it's fine.

However, Levenkron's tone is unbearable, and the book is packed with these nauseating case examples in which he acts as some great guru of wonder and light, the only one who can possibly understand the struggle of the poor, misunderstood cutter. His description of how his patients eyes light up when he spouts his "wisdom" is almost laughable. In addition, there
Jennifer Day
I suppose in a clinical light this might be a good book. But for a former cutter and self-mutilator it came off as extremely patronizing and as if all the author wanted was a pat on the back. There are gems hidden throughout the book but there are many others such as The Skin Game (I think that's the title) and Bright Red Scream. If you really want/need more information on what self-mutilation is really about and what it can be like to suffer from this often misunderstood and misaligned afflicti ...more
levenkron is a kind of annoying writer. he's come out with maybe the first ya-lit book on anorexia ( the best little girl in the world) and then his follow-up on self-injury, and this book is his "conclusion" on self-injurious behavior.

his main thesis is that people (mostly teenage girls) cut because they have a lack of communication. in behavioral terms, they are indirectly communicating their intense emotional pain by outwardly hurting themselves, a physical manifestation of the "psychache" (t
Nov 24, 2008 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who self mutilate and those who love them.
Recommended to Jennifer by: I searched for books on this subject all by my little self.
This book was written by an actual Doctor who uses specific sessions with patients as examples of why people cut (or burn) and what he did for each specific case. I found it quite interesting and learned a few tricks to use on myself. It was also more proof that people cut for different reasons and what works for one person doesn't always work for another. It is the best book I have found on this subject so far.
Kate Stewart
I purchased this book to get a better insight to the world of self harm, for a thesis at uni. This book exceeded the expectations that I had -which were to gain a more sound understanding and add further depth in my knowledge of the issue.

Levenkron offers many factual (and often confronting) case studies which allows the reader a glance into what the world of self mutilation is like. It is easy to sympathise or empathise for the majority of the patients he discusses, which I believe was the emot
Melynda Yesenia
As an introduction to books written about this subject, and the field is growing all the time, Levenkron's book is not so bad. I read this at the library after practically tripping over it jammed between two huge art books in the contemporary/ coffee table section, like someone had been reading it incognito.

This book oversimplifies a subject that is incredibly complex and screwed up. His main stance on the subject seems to be that cutting as a behavior arises from being overlooked or abused, pr
I picked this up at the library after being rather disappointed with A Bright Red Scream. Cutting is a much less sensationalized book on the issue, and one that I think is a lot more useful for those who would seek to understand the issue more thoroughly. The subtitle of the book makes it sound like a self-help book for people who cut or otherwise self-mutilate, but it really reads more like something written for concerned friends and parents, or for therapists who are just beginning to understa ...more
The first half of this book was good. It had a lot of information about early research on self-harmers, what predisposes certain people to the behaviors, and WHY people use this coping mechanism. The second part dealt with treatment though. Normally I would enjoy that, since I work with kids who have this problem. However, I found Levenkron's cookie cutter approach a little insulting. Also, by about the 2/3 point I was super tired of listening to him talk about himself and what an amazing therap ...more
Grant Talabay
This book covers the seemingly insane notion of cutting. It breaks the practice down simply so that the lay person can understand it. Highly recommend if you know someone who self mutilates.
This book was very helpful to me scene I've been trying to stop self-harming myself. It gave me a chance to really reflect on my pass and move forward with my life.
Mrs W
Steven Levenkron is an experienced psychotherapist who has worked for years with individuals who self-mutilate. He began his work with them when other therapists would refer them elsewhere because so little was known about the disorder. When Levenkron published this book, it was one of the breakthrough pieces of literature on this type of behavior. Divided into three sections, Levenkron looks into what causes the behavior, how it can be treated, and how to help a “recovered” patient prevent a re ...more
Overall a compassionate, informative, and insightful book. An excellent look at the psychology behind self harm, delving where many people including psychiatrists and psychologists don't want to go, i.e. treating self-harmers. Levenkron is a compassionate and intelligent writer, skilfully using case studies to demonstrate the unique individual experiences of those who self harm and also the underlying similarities useful for recovery and treatment. This book is a rarity, it attempts to understan ...more
This book is meant, I believe, as a general resource for anyone wanting to learn more about self-mutilation and how to help the person who is mutilating her/himself. However, I feel this book would be of most help to therapists. The author is a therapist and focuses mainly on how the therapeutic process can help a person overcome this behavior. The first part does cover possible reasons for why a person chooses to cut and what the stereotypical cutter "looks like." My issue with that section was ...more
Trey Nowell
Coming from a person that has never cut and is a psych grad, working in the profession and having experience in my personal life with people close to me who discussed this behavior with me, I must say this book helped me understand a lot about what to do in these situations, wish I had read it far earlier. I read through majority of this without highlighting fully back in 2010 as well. A large majority of this book discusses why self-mutilation occurs in people and discusses how a person may bec ...more
Lilli Langtry
Riveting read, underpinned with an insightful clinical psychological understanding which amounts to far more than armchair theorising. Working with clients that profoundly self harm I feel that this book has extended my practical applications and psychological understanding specifically with regard to attachment and how self harmers cut to re establish attachment however maladaptive that attachment may have been.
Raechel Clary
I thank my lucky stars for this book as I have learned so much about the recovery journey that one has ahead of them when dealing with self-mutilation. After purchasing and reading this book, I am learning to love myself again, as well as cope with past and current events that have (and continue to) put my emotional and mental strength on the line every day of my life. The epilogue is what truly helped me decide that I want to end my suffering (in a healthy way) once and for all and it let me kn ...more
Leah Wilby
The book provides a general overview via case examples of some of the motivating factors behind those who self-harm as well as guidelines around how to best address and support those who engage in self-harm. The information is accessible and easy to read, however the dialogue transcribed between client and therapist is too neatly packaged and the author presents himself as nauseatingly adept at quick fixes. The language he uses to pose questions to clients as young as 12, and the language of the ...more
While it had some good points about self harm I really felt it missed the mark and made it a very one-sided view of self harm. The author felt pious at times and it was a turn off. In fact, he was so off the mark that I felt myself angry and wanting to write a letter to the author.
Interesting for those with a curiosity in the science of psychology. Looks into the lives of those who harm themselves, and proves that the oft held belief that harming one's self is merely a means of seeking attention is a sad misconception.
Amy Hassig
An interesting book with lots of case studies, however the book claims to offer ways to overcome cutting behavior and I found it lacking in specific details in this area. I was disappointed as I purchased this book to help with a book I am writing for expressly this purpose.
May 13, 2007 darrienmichael rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Psychology students of any kind and those who have cutting in their lives.
Cutting is a little known, and far less understood, action that the vast majority of people don't want to talk about. Even among those who have heard of it, and maybe even know a little about it, it is an uncomfortable and taboo subject. Even people who do it often know little about it. This book is for students of psychology and for people who cut and the people who love them. This book will help you understand cutting, although I don't think anyone could ever fully explain it. Cutting involves ...more
Mary Katherine McMullen
The first half of this book discusses why self-mutilation occurs in people and the factors that may lead to a person developing into a self-mutilator. The second half of the book is dedicated to recovery. Most readers will be put off by the details of the short case studies and narratives the secrecy of self-mutilation, although over 2 million Americans are self-harmers, the information provided by Levenkron from his 20 years of experience treating these individuals may be invaluable to the read ...more
Tammi Stanley
I wish this book focused more on the "understanding" part from a family member's viewpoint. He spoke of his experiences as a therapist and his patients' experiences but not how to talk to family members about how they can better understand this complicated issue.
This was the first book I read regarding self-injury. I found it incredibly informative regarding how to approach an individual who discloses she/he is self-harming.
They day after I finished the book a student came to me to disclose she had cut herself. And because of the book I knew exatly how to handle it. And my approach actually worked! However, I have read other books on the subject and have wondered why Levenkron is never mentioned nor is his book.
F Macias-Mossman
Levenkron is a narcissist and the book is his way of displaying his brilliance as a psychotherapist. If you can get past his writing style (I am such a hero, blah-blah) there is actually interesting subject matter here and at least more than surface level in regards to self-mutilation. However, with the emergence of Emo culture in America and Fight Clubs, it will be interesting to see how the origins of these views will shift.
An informative book for those who are unfamiliar with the basics of self-harm. The stories within are over dramatized to make a point and seem to reveal more about the author than about the people he is supposedly writing this book for. The stories are a bit graphic and may be triggering for people who self harm and are not in a safe place emotionally. Overall, I would say there are many better books around on the topic.
Aug 21, 2008 MK rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anybody who is living through self mutilation or knows someone who is
Recommended to MK by: A friend who knew what I was going through
As someone whose suffered from self mutilation for many, many years, this book was a fantastic read. Very insightful, and bold. There's a lot to learn whether the reader is someone who is self mutilating, or even someone who is trying to understand why someone they love would hurt themselves.
If you are hurting yourself or know someone who is, you MUST read this book. It will definitely open your eyes.
She'Davia Williams
I picked up this book in an effort to try and understand a little more about my own 2 1/2 year problem with cutting. I discussed it with my therapist and idk, most of the book is just a little aggravating. I mean most of the conversations dont seem real at all. Especially for some of the age groups.

It did help me understand a bit about the problem but overall I'm more confused.
Vanessa Livingston
Picked this up at the right time. Any and all books written by someone with exposure to the subject are a help, and no two books or authors are alike... So while I truly gained perspective from Levenkron's anecdotes I must admit that not everyone will. But be mindful - there is salvation in knowledge, and therefore within these pages.
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