Self Harm

Why Do You Self Injure? Is Self Injury Really The Right Solution?

This article is intended to be thought provoking and maybe a little challenging.

These are difficult questions to answer for some people, easier to answer for others - but I think they are relevant questions for everyone who self injures. There's a short self help exercise to follow through this discussion (after all, it's no use talking about baking a cake unless you provide the recipe to do it).

Why do you self injure?

People often self injure to cope with overwhelming and unhappy feelings - sadness, anger, stress, depression, loneliness etc. Sometimes these feelings are caused by mental illness and sometimes by external factors such as stress at school or work, family or friendship problems, for example.

  • Take a moment to list the reasons why you self injure. Do this mentally, on a piece of paper, or even in a topic on the HelpingTeens Support Groups if you're comfortable.

Is self injury really the solution?

SI is only one of many coping solutions. Sometimes it is a comforting and reassuring outlet because it seems to work every time to provide relief - but in actual fact it only provides short term relief - it is rarely a true solution to your feelings, as it doesn't deal with the root cause(s) and so the problems are still there.

Look at your list of reasons for SIing and see if there are ways you can resolve them. Examples (both short and long term) for solutions could be talking to friends and family in order to resolve relationship problems, seeing a therapist to help you recover from depression, asking a teacher to advise you about coping with the stress of school, etc. (Posting or Chatting at HT to ask for help finding solutions also counts!)

Sometimes finding (or using) a solution for the reason(s) you SI isn't always appropriate. There isn't always a readily available or 'physical solution' (such as the ones I listed above) to the way you feel, or the emotional resources might not be there to put them in place. You might feel how you do for no obvious reason, or for a reason that can't immediately be solved (ie depression, PMS, or simply a 'bad day'). In those cases you could use alternatives for SI, rather than solutions. Alternatives might be taking a bath or a walk, having a nap, calling a friend, snuggling on the sofa with a blanket and a book, magazine, TV, etc.

  • Now take a moment to list any solutions to the reasons you SI, and/or any alternatives to SI. Also think of ways to put those things into practice (if applicable).

It's useful to expand and develop your coping skills when in need. The list of solutions and alternatives can be used instead of SI when you next feel the urge.

Alternatives to SI

Taken with permission from http://www.perfectedsouls.com/ps/si_alternatives.asp

Many people try substitute activities as described above and report that sometimes they work, sometimes not. One way to increase the chances of a distraction/substitution helping calm the urge to harm is to match what you do to how you are feeling at the moment.

First, take a few moments and look behind the urge. What are you feeling? Are you angry? Frustrated? Restless? Sad? Craving the feeling of SI? Depersonalized and unreal or numb? Unfocused?

Next, match the activity to the feeling. A few examples:

Angry, frustrated, restless:

  • Try something physical and violent, something not directed at a living thing:
  • Slash an empty plastic soda bottle or a piece of heavy cardboard or an old shirt or sock.
  • Make a soft cloth doll to represent the things you are angry at. Cut and tear it instead of yourself.
  • Flatten aluminum cans for recycling, seeing how fast you can go.
  • Hit a punching bag.
  • Use a pillow to hit a wall, pillow-fight style.
  • Rip up an old newspaper or phone book.
  • On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture.
  • Make Play-Doh or Sculpey or other clay models and cut or smash them.
  • Throw ice into the bathtub or against a brick wall hard enough to shatter it.
  • Break sticks.
  • I've found that these things work even better if I rant at the thing I am cutting/tearing/hitting. I start out slowly, explaining why I am hurt and angry, but sometimes end up swearing and crying and yelling. It helps a lot to vent like that.
  • Crank up the music and dance.
  • Clean your room (or your whole house).
  • Go for a walk/jog/run.
  • Stomp around in heavy shoes.
  • Play handball or tennis.

Sad, soft, melancholy, depressed, unhappy

  • Do something slow and soothing, like taking a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles, curling up under a comforter with hot cocoa and a good book, babying yourself somehow.
  • Do whatever makes you feel taken care of and comforted.
  • Light sweet-smelling incense.
  • Listen to soothing music.
  • Smooth nice body lotion into the parts or yourself you want to hurt.
  • Call a friend and just talk about things that you like.
  • Make a tray of special treats and tuck yourself into bed with it and watch TV or read.
  • Visit a friend.

Craving sensation, feeling depersonalized, dissociating, feeling unreal

Do something that creates a sharp physical sensation:

  • Squeeze ice hard (this really hurts). (Note: putting ice on a spot you want to burn gives you a strong painful sensation and leaves a red mark afterward, kind of like burning would.)
  • Put a finger into a frozen food (like ice cream) for a minute.
  • Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root.
  • Rub liniment under your nose.
  • Slap a tabletop hard.
  • Snap your wrist with a rubber band.
  • Take a cold bath.
  • Stomp your feet on the ground.
  • Focus on how it feels to breathe. Notice the way your chest and stomach move with each breath.

[NOTE: Some people report that being online while dissociating increases their sense of unreality; be cautious about logging on in a dissociative state until you know how it affects you.]

You want attention or people to focus on you:

  • Do a task (a computer game like Tetris or minesweeper, writing a computer program, needlework, etc) that is exacting and requires focus and concentration.
  • Eat a raisin mindfully. Pick it up, noticing how it feels in your hand. Look at it carefully; see the asymmetries and think about the changes the grape went through. Roll the raisin in your fingers and notice the texture; try to describe it. Bring the raisin up to your mouth, paying attention to how it feels to move your hand that way. Smell the raisin; what does it remind you of? How does a raisin smell? Notice that you're beginning to salivate, and see how that feels. Open your mouth and put the raisin in, taking time to think about how the raisin feels to your tongue. Chew slowly, noticing how the texture and even the taste of the raisin change as you chew it. Are there little seeds or stems? How is the inside different from the outside? Finally, swallow.
  • Choose an object in the room. Examine it carefully and then write as detailed a description of it as you can. Include everything: size, weight, texture, shape, color, possible uses, feel, etc.
  • Choose a random object, like a paper clip, and try to list 30 different uses for it.
  • Pick a subject and research it on the web.

If you want to see blood:

  • Draw on yourself with a red felt-tip pen.
  • Take a small bottle of liquid red food coloring and warm it slightly by dropping it into a cup of hot water for a few minutes. Uncap the bottle and press its tip against the place you want to cut. Draw the bottle in a cutting motion while squeezing it slightly to let the food color trickle out.
  • Draw on the areas you want to cut using ice that you've made by dropping six or seven drops of red food color into each of the ice-cube tray wells.
  • Paint yourself with red tempera paint.

If you want to see scars or pick scabs

  • Get a henna tattoo kit. You put the henna on as a paste and leave it overnight; the next day you can pick it off as you would a scab and it leaves an orange-red mark behind.
  • Another thing that helps sometimes is the fifteen-minute game. Tell yourself that if you still want to harm yourself in 15 minutes, you can. When the time is up, see if you can go another 15. I've been able to get through a whole night that way before.

I tried all of that. I still want to hurt myself.

  • Sometimes you will make a good-faith effort to keep from harming yourself but nothing seems to work. You've slashed a bottle, your hand is numb from the ice, and the urge is still twisting you into knots. You feel that if you don't harm yourself, you'll explode. What now?
  • Get out the questions below. It's a good idea to have several copies of these printed out and ready to use; you can also answer them online; your responses will be mailed privately to you and no one will see them except you.

Answer these as honestly and in as much detail as you are able to right now. No one is going to see the answers except you, and lying to yourself is pretty pointless. If, in all honesty, you see no other answer to #8 but yes, then give yourself permission, but set definite limits. Do not allow the urge to control you; if you choose to give in to it, then choose it. Decide beforehand exactly what you will allow yourself to do and how much is enough, and stick to those limits. Keep yourself as safe as you can while injuring yourself, and take responsibility for the injury.

The questions:

  1. Why do I feel I need to hurt myself? What has brought me to this point?
  2. Have I been here before? What did I do to deal with it? How did I feel then?
  3. What I have done to ease this discomfort so far? What else can I do that won't hurt me?
  4. How do I feel right now?
  5. How will I feel when I am hurting myself?
  6. How will I feel after hurting myself? How will I feel tomorrow morning?
  7. Can I avoid this stressor, or deal with it better in the future?
  8. Do I need to hurt myself?

Staying safe while hurting yourself

A few things to keep in mind should you decide that you do need to hurt yourself:

  • Don't share cutting implements with anyone; you can get the same diseases (hepatitis, AIDS, etc) addicts get from sharing needles.
  • Try to keep cuts shallow. Keep first aid supplies on hand and know what to do in the case of emergencies.
  • Do only the minimum required to ease your distress. Set limits. Decide how much you are going to allow yourself to do (how many cuts/burns/bruises, how deep/severe, how long you will allow yourself to engage in SI), keep within those boundaries, and clean up and bandage yourself later. If you can manage that much, then at least you will be exerting some control over your SI.

What is "fake pain" and why does it matter?

The concept of "fake pain" helps to explain why distress-tolerance skills are so crucial. Observation of myself and interviews with others have convinced me that one of the reasons people self-injure is to deflect unknown, frightening pain into understandable, sort-of-controllable "pseudo" or "fake" pain. Calling this phenomenon "fake pain" is in no way intended to suggest that it doesn't hurt; it hurts like hell. When memories or thoughts or beliefs or events are excessively painful, instead of facing them directly and feeling "genuine" pain, we sometimes deflect distress into pain that seems understandable and controllable, like that of self-injury. The real feelings associated with the event you're avoiding get overridden by those of the situation you create to distract yourself. It still hurts like hell, but it's a controllable familiar hell, whereas the real pain you're avoiding seems scary and poised to take over your world like the monster who ate Detroit.

It's easy to revert to "fake" pain. Trying to find the source of your distress can be scary as hell, because you often don't know what you're going to unleash. Fake pain, although very painful and traumatic, is something that you understand and can control and can handle. It's familiar, not mysterious and scary like the real pain behind it. You might feel that if you ever exposed yourself to the real pain you'd lose control: "If I ever start crying, I'll never stop" or "If I let myself get mad about that, I'll never stop screaming."

Instead, you unconsciously deflect the distress away from the memories or feelings that generated it and into self-injury. SI is seductive: you control it. You know the boundaries, even when you feel out of control. It makes sense and it makes the distress go away, at least for a while. It's a clever mechanism -- it takes what seems unbearable and transforms it into something you can control. The only problem is that when you deflect pain, you never face up directly to what it is that has caused this much tumult in your life. So long as you channel distress into fake pain, you never deal with the real pain and it never lessens in intensity. It keeps coming back and you have to keep cutting.

You have to deal with the unbearable if you ever want to make it lose its power over you. Every time you can meet the real pain head-on and feel it and tolerate the distress, it loses a little of its ability to wipe you out and eventually it becomes just a memory. The process is like building tolerance to a drug. Narcotics users take a little bit more of their drug every day as tolerance builds, until eventually they're routinely taking amounts of drug that would kill an ordinary person. The poisonous events in your past work in a similar way. Exposure (with the help of a trained therapist) over time will build your tolerance to these events and enable you to lay them to rest. The key is learning to tolerate distress.

DBT-related skills

Marsha Linehan's Skills Training Manual has several helpful worksheets for getting through crisis situations. Though they are best used as part of a DBT program with a trained therapist, you might find some of them helpful.

Accepting Reality

This concept focuses on learning to accept reality as it is. Accepting it doesn't mean you like it or are willing to allow it to continue unchanged; it means realizing that the basic facts of the situation are even if they aren't what you'd like them to be. Without this kind of radical acceptance, change isn't possible.

Letting Go of Emotional Suffering

In this worksheet, you learn ways to observe and describe your emotion, separate yourself from it, and let go of it. One of Linehan's basic principles is that emotion loves emotion, and this worksheet is designed to help you experience your emotions with amplifying them or get caught in a feedback loop.

Distraction

Distraction is simply doing other things to keep yourself from self-harming. Most of the techniques mentioned above are distraction techniques; you bring something else in to change the feeling. Using ice, rubber bands, etc, is substituting other intense feelings for the self-injury. Other things Linehan suggest substituting include experiences that change your current feelings, tasks (like counting the colors you can see in your immediate environment) that don't require much effort but do take a great deal of concentration, and volunteer work.

Improve the Moment

This worksheet focuses on ways to make the present moment more bearable. It differs from distraction in that it's not just a diverting of the mind but a complete change of attitude in the moment.

Evaluating the Pros and Cons of Tolerating Distress

As the name implies, this worksheet leads you through an evaluation: what are the benefits of doing this self-harming thing? What are the benefits of not doing it? What are the bad things about doing it? About not doing it? Sometimes writing this down can help you make a decision not to harm.

Self-Soothing

This, like improving the moment and distracting, is a distress tolerance technique. It's pretty straightforward: use things that are pleasing to your senses to soothe yourself. Some people find that active distraction works better for violent angry feelings and soothing is more effective for soft, sad ones.

Reducing Vulnerability to Negative Emotion

Prevention of states in which you are likely to self-harm is covered in this worksheet, which suggests ways of taking care of yourself in order to minimize the times when you feel the urge to hurt yourself. If you're balancing eating, sleeping, and self-care, you're less likely to be overwhelmed by emotion.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

Being clear about what you want and about your priorities in an interaction are crucial to good communication, and this worksheet offers a series of questions and steps to follow to help you determine how to approach a difficult interpersonal interaction. It is truly amazing how much going through these steps can help.

More information about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can be found at DBT-Seattle.

Bristol Crisis Service for Women

Bristol Crisis Service for Women is the leading UK (and as far as I know, European) support organization for women who self-harm. They offer a confidential help line, publications for self-harmers and for professionals, and other services. They're empathetic, dedicated and a valuable resource for women in the UK and Europe. Check out their Women and Self-Injury leaflet.

S.A.F.E.

In 1984 Karen Conterio (then of Hartgrove) established a support group for self-injurers called SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends). SAFE groups were not like 12-step groups or most self-help groups; they were short-term groups run by a professional facilitator. SAFE no longer offers these groups, but they do have a 30-day inpatient program; more details are on the resources page. SAFE operates on the belief that the underlying emotional conflict is the primary problem, not the self-injury. More information about SAFE can be obtained at 1-800-DONTCUT.

I stopped a while ago, but I keep thinking about hurting myself. Help?

It's not uncommon for people to continue thinking obsessively about self-injury for a while after they've made the decision to stop. Hurting yourself has been a huge part of your life up until recently, and you're used to dwelling on it. You might think that you're supposed to be "cured" now and that all thoughts of SI should magically vanish from your head, so when you catch yourself thinking about that blade or lighter or whatever, you get angry and frustrated and shove the thought away.

Foa and Wilson (1991) deal with intrusive thoughts by a combination of giving yourself permission to think about it and exposure/habituation techniques combined with ritual prevention. Exposure refers to repeatedly presenting someone with the situation about which they obsess, and habituation happens when, after much exposure without resulting to usual actions, the person gets used to the situation and it no longer distresses them.

To adapt these techniques, first make yourself safe. If you're in a mind-set in which self-injury seems very very likely, it might be better to use distraction techniques to get past that place. Line up a support person whom you can call if you get overwhelmed by this technique. Try to tolerate it for as long as you can, even if you're uncomfortable.

First, designate two 10- or 15-minute time periods daily. Choose times when you will be alone and able to think without being interrupted. To begin, set a timer for the designated amount of time. Then obsess about hurting yourself. Think about what it would feel like, how you would feel afterwards, how much you want to do this -- all those thoughts you've been trying to suppress. Get as distressed as you can, and stay focused on the topic of injuring yourself. You may find, especially after the first few times, that you get really bored toward the end of your time period. That's a good sign -- you're becoming habituated.

When the time is up, stop thinking about SI. If thoughts of wanting to harm come into your mind at other times during the day, acknowledge them and remind yourself that you will think about them later, when it's time. Then let them go. If they come back, repeat the process. Don't shove them away or try to ignore them; just acknowledge, remind yourself they have their time soon, and let go.

After a week or so you will notice an improvement (maybe even after just a few days). One crucial thing: no matter what, do not act on the thoughts of SI. They are just thoughts, and you can use the skills that you used to stop harming to get through these times. In order for habituation to occur, you have to get through the exposure without resorting to the old behavior. Use distraction and substitution for SI (ritual) prevention.

I've Quit Cutting, Now the Scars

I spent the last... while... looking through the Support Groups and reading all the topics with ideals for helping to fade scars.  I found a lot of great iseals that I am going to try out.

Scar Reduction/Fading Products

  • Neosporin (http://www.neosporin.com) and Polisporin (http://www.polysporin.ca/en/default.asp) are supposed to help fresh cuts heal more quickly and reduce scarring.
  • Tanning seems to be a popular method for reducing scars appearances, though some people say it darkens the color of their scars as well.  The majority of people though, including myself, find that it helps their scars blend in with their skin tone and also reduces their size.
  • Vitamin E is very useful for helping scars fade, but it is important to make sure it is only used on wounds that are completely healed.
  • Makeup, like Dermablend (http://www.dermablend.com/index.aspx?) is good for covering up scars and is not really that expensive.
  • Scar reduction creams, like Mederma (http://www.mederma.com/) are good for all kinds of scars, burns, cuts, acne, and even stretch marks.
  • Websites like this one: http://www.makemeheal.com/mmh/product/scar_reduction/index.vm?procid=42 come with a bunch of other alternatives for scar reduction.
Then there is the old fashion way of covering up scars with stick or liquid makeup.  You can get these products at your local grocery store for a few dollars.

Other Methods to Avoid Cutting

  • Scribble on photos of people in magazines
  • Viciously stab an orange.
  • Throw an apple/pair of socks against the wall
  • Have a pillow fight with the wall
  • Scream very loudly
  • Tear apart newspapers, photos, or magazines
  • Go to the gym, dance, exercise
  • Listen to music and sing along loudly
  • Draw a picture of what is making you angry
  • Beat up a stuffed bear
  • Pop bubble wrap
  • Pop balloons
  • Splatter paint
  • Scribble on a piece of paper until the whole page is black
  • Filling a piece of paper with drawing cross hatches
  • Throw darts at a dartboard
  • Go for a run
  • Write your feelings on paper then rip it up
  • Use stress relievers
  • Build a fort of pillows and then destroy it
  • Throw ice cubes at the bathtub wall, at a tree, etc
  • Get out a fine tooth comb and vigorously brush the fur of a stuffed animal
  • Slash an empty plastic soda bottle or a piece of heavy cardboard or an old shirt or sock
  • Make a soft cloth doll to represent the things you are angry at; cut and tear it instead of yourself
  • Flatten aluminium cans for recycling, seeing how fast you can go
  • On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture
  • Break sticks
  • Cut up fruits
  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible
  • Stomp around in heavy shoes
  • Play handball or tennis
  • Yell at what you are breaking and tell it why you are angry, hurt, upset
  • Hold ice in your hands, against your arm, or in your mouth
  • Run your hands under freezing cold water
  • Snap a rubber band or hair band against your wrist
  • Clap your hands until it stings
  • Wax your legs
  • Drink freezing cold water
  • Splash your face with cold water
  • Put PVA/Elmer's glue on your hands then peel it off
  • Massage where you want to hurt yourself
  • Take a hot shower/bath
  • Jump up and down to get some sensation in your feet
  • Write or paint on yourself
  • Arm wrestle with a member of your family
  • Take a cold bath
  • Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root
  • Rub liniment under your nose
  • Put tiger balm on the places you want to cut.
  • Say “I’ll self harm in fifteen minutes if I still want to” and keep going for periods of fifteen minutes until the urge fades
  • Color your hair
  • Count up to ten getting louder until you are screaming
  • Sing on the karaoke machine
  • Complete something you’ve been putting off
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Make a cup of tea
  • Tell and laugh at jokes
  • Play solitaire
  • Count up to 500 or 1000
  • Surf the net
  • Make as many words out of your full name as possible
  • Count ceiling tiles or lights
  • Search ridiculous things on the web
  • Colour coordinate your wardrobe
  • Play with toys, such as a slinky
  • Go to the park and play on the swings
  • Call up an old friend
  • Go "people watching"
  • Carry safe, rather than sharp, things in your pockets
  • Do school work
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Watch TV or a movie
  • Paint your nails
  • Alphabetize your CDs or books
  • Cook
  • Make origami to occupy your hands
  • Doodle on sheets of paper
  • Dress up or try on old clothes
  • Play computer games or painting programs, such as Adobe Photoshop
  • Write out lyrics to your favorite song
  • Play a sport
  • Read a book/magazine
  • Do a crossword
  • Draw a comic strip
  • Make a chain link out of paper counting the hours or days you've been self harm free using pretty colored paper
  • Knit, sew, or make a necklace
  • Buy a plant and take care of it
  • Hunt for things on eBay or Amazon
  • Browse the forums
  • Go shopping
  • Memorize a poem with meaning
  • Learn to swear in another language
  • Look up words in a dictionary
  • Play hide-and-seek with your siblings
  • Go outside and watch the clouds roll by
  • Plan a party
  • Find out if any concerts will be in your area
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Make your own dance routine
  • Trace your hand on a piece of paper; on your thumb, write something you like to look at; on your index finger, write something you like to touch; on your middle finger, write your favorite scent; on your ring finger, write something you like the taste of; on your pinky finger, write something you like to listen to; on your palm, write something you like about yourself
  • Plan regular activities for your most difficult time of day
  • Finish homework before it's due
  • Take a break from mental processing
  • Notice black and white thinking
  • Get out on your own, get away from the stress
  • Go on YouTube
  • Make a scrapbook
  • Make a phone list of people you can call for support. Allow yourself to use it.
  • Pay attention to your breathing
  • Pay attention to the rhythmic motions of your body
  • Learn HALT signals
  • Choose a random object, like a paper clip, and try to list 30 different uses for it
  • Pick a subject and research it on the web
  • Crawl on all fours and bark like a dog or another animal
  • Run around outside screaming
  • Laugh for no reason whatsoever
  • Make funny faces in a mirror
  • Without turning orange, self tan
  • Pluck your eyebrows
  • Put faces on apples, oranges, or other sorts of food
  • Go to the zoo and name all of the animals
  • Color on the walls
  • Blow bubbles
  • Pull weeds in the garden
  • Congratulate yourself on each minute you go without self harming
  • Draw or paint
  • Look at the sky
  • Instead of punishing yourself by self harming, punish yourself by not self harming
  • Call a friend and ask for company
  • Buy a cuddly toy
  • Give someone a hug with a smile
  • Put a face mask on
  • Watch a favorite TV show or movie
  • Eat something ridiculously sweet
  • Remember a happy moment and relive it for a while in your head
  • Treat yourself to some chocolate
  • Try to imagine the future and plan things you want to do
  • Look at things that are special to you
  • Compliment someone else
  • Make sculptures
  • Watch fish
  • Let yourself cry
  • Play with a pet
  • Have or give a massage
  • Imagine yourself living in a perfect home and describe it in your mind
  • If you're religious, read the bible or pray
  • Light a candle and watch the flame
  • Go chat in the chat room
  • Allow yourself to cry
  • Accept a gift from a friend
  • Carry tokens to remind you of peaceful comforting things/people
  • Take a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles
  • Curl up under a comforter with hot cocoa and a good book
  • Make affirmation tapes inside you that are good, kind, gentle
  • Make a tray of special treats and tuck yourself into bed with it and watch TV or read
  • “See, hear and feel”-5 things, then 4, then 3 and countdown to one which will make you focus on your surroundings and will calm you down
  • Listen to soothing music; have a CD with motivational songs that you can listen to
  • Meditate or do yoga
  • Name all of your soft toys
  • Hug a pillow or soft toy
  • Hyper focus on something
  • Do a “reality check list” – write down all the things you can list about where you are now
  • With permission, give someone a hug
  • Drink herbal tea
  • Crunch ice
  • Hug a tree
  • Go for a walk if it's safe to do so
  • Feel your pulse to prove you're alive
  • Go outside and attempt to catch butterflies or lizards
  • Put your feet firmly on the floor
  • Accept where you are in the process. Beating yourself up, only makes it worse
  • Touch something familiar/safe
  • Leave the room
  • Give yourself permission to...
  • Think about how you don’t want scars
  • Treat yourself nicely
  • Remember that you don’t have to hurt yourself just because you're thinking about self harm
  • Create a safe place to go
  • Acknowledge that self harm is harmful behavior: say “I want to hurt myself” rather than “I want to cut”
  • Repeat to yourself “I don’t deserve to be hurt” even if you don’t believe it
  • Remember that you always have the choice not to cut: it’s up to you what you do
  • Think about how you may feel guilty after self harming
  • Remind yourself that the urge to self harm is impulsive: you will only feel like cutting for short bursts of time
  • Avoid temptation
  • Get your friends to make you friendship bracelets: wear them around your wrists to remind you of them when you want to cut
  • Be with other people
  • Make your own list of things to do instead of self harm
  • Make a list of your positive character traits
  • Be nice to your family, who in return, will hopefully be nice to you
  • Put a band-aid on the area where you'd like to self harm
  • Recognize and acknowledge the choices you have NOW
  • Pay attention to the changes needed to make you feel safe
  • Notice "choices" versus "dilemmas"
  • Lose the "should-could-have to" words. Try... "What if"
  • Kiss the places you want to SH or kiss the places you have healing wounds. It can be a reminder that you care about myself and that you don't want this
  • Choose your way of thinking, try to resist following old thinking patterns
  • The Butterfly project- draw a butterfly on the place that you would self harm and if the butterfly fades without self-harming, it means it has lived and flown away, giving a sense of achievement. Whereas if you do self-harm with the butterfly there; you will have to wash it off. If that does happen, you can start again by drawing a new one on. You can name the butterfly after someone you love.
  • Draw on yourself with a red pen or body paint
  • Cover yourself with plasters where you want to cut
  • Give yourself a henna or fake tattoo
  • Make “wounds” with makeup, like lipstick
  • Take a small bottle of liquid red food coloring and warm it slightly by dropping it into a cup of hot water for a few minutes. Uncap the bottle and press its tip against the place you want to cut. Draw the bottle in a cutting motion while squeezing it slightly to let the food color trickle out.
  • Draw on the areas you want to cut using ice that you've made by dropping six or seven drops of red food color into each of the ice-cube tray wells.
  • Paint yourself with red tempera paint.
  • 'Cut' your skin with nail polish
  • Phone a friend and talk to them
  • Make a collage of how you feel
  • Negotiate with yourself
  • Identify what is hurting so bad that you need to express it in this way
  • Write your feelings in a diary
  • Make lists of everything such as blessings in your life
  • Make a notebook of song lyrics that you relate to
  • Call a hotline
  • Write a letter to someone telling them how you feel

Some Ideas for Things to do to Stop Self-harming.

Here are some ideas for those who would like to stop self harming and those who don't but should see.

  • Deep breathing relaxation techniques
  • Call a friend, your therapist or a crisis line
  • Try not be alone (visit a friend, go shopping, etc.)
  • Take a hot bath
  • Listen to music
  • Go for a walk
  • Write in a journal
  • Wear an elastic around wrist and snap it when you have the urge to harm yourself
  • Some people find it helpful to draw red lines on themselves with washable markers instead of cutting themselves
  • Hold ice cubes in your hands - the cold causes pain in your hands, but it is not dangerous or harmful (some people find it relieves the urge to harm themselves for that moment)
  • Punching a bed or a pillow (when nothing but a physical outlet for your anger and frustration will work)
  • Scratch
  • Draw a picture on a thick piece of wood or use a screw driver and stab at the piece of wood. (which can be another physical way to release your emotions without harming yourself.)
  • Avoid temptation (e.g.: avoiding areas where the razor blades are kept, etc.)
  • Try to find your own creative ways as outlets for emotions.
  • Stand in a room by yourself and SCREAM at the top of your lungs for as long as it takes for exhaustion to kick in. Then relax.

Learn to confront others/making your own feelings known instead of keeping them inside go outside and scream and yell take up a sport (a form of exercise can help you release tension, etc.) work with paint, clay, play-doo, etc. (the person who suggested this mentioned that they would make a big sculpture and do whatever they wanted to it. They said it was helpful to calm the urge to self-injure, plus it gave them some idea of what might be underlying the pain. draw a picture of what or who is making you angry instead of harming yourself, try massaging the area you want to harm with massage oils or creams, reminding yourself that you are special and you deserve to treat yourself and your body with love and respect go to church or your place of worship wear a pipe cleaner or something that will fit on the places that you injure.

One person did this as a way to remind herself that she could call someone instead of hurting herself and that she had other ways to cope. Break the object that you use to self-injure as a way to show that you have control over it. Write a letter to the person(s) that have hurt you and express how they made you feel. Theses letters do not have to be in perfect form and you do not have to please anyone but yourself. You do not have to give these letters to the people, but it is a great way to release the feelings that you are carrying within. After you write the letters, you can decide then what to do with them.

Some people find destroying the letters help (i.e. tear them up, throw them in a lake, etc.) do some household chores (i.e. cleaning) do some cooking try some sewing, crossstitch, etc. recite a poem, prayer or anything else familiar the comforts you multiple times write down all your positive points and why you do not deserve to be hurt write in your journal why you want to hurt yourself and if you have hurt yourself, write down what caused it to happen so in the future you can prevent it from happenings - or find out what your triggers were Play some kind of musical instrument. Even if you don't really know how to play, picking out tunes is a way to concentrate and help get rid of the urge to harm yourself. Yoga allows you to cry.

Getting the tears out can make you feel better. It allows the inside to release, as opposed to self abuse. Picture your "ickies" pouring out as you cry. Take a shower write down a word best associated with what you are feeling (i.e. horrible, sad, lonely, angry) and continue to write it down, over and over. Sometimes when you do that, the words looks silly etc., and it puts humor or a smile in your life. sing a song on what you are feeling. It's another way to get it outside. Shout if you are made, etc. Let the words just come to you. Scribble on paper. Clutch the pen in your fist.

It's a way to diffuse it on to paper. (Get a few sheets so they don't tear.) Take item you are self injuring with and use it against something else. For example, if you are using a razor blade, rip it across a towel. Sometimes seeing what "can" be done to an object can make a person think twice about using it on them selves. Can also give the feeling of "doing it"...the tangible aspect. Make a list of reasons why you are going to stop cutting. Every time you get the urge, read the list so you can remind yourself why you shouldn't. Also remember to put on that list that you do not deserve to hurt yourself. You are important and special and you do not deserve to be hurt

I hope at least some of this does work.