How to Stop Self-Harm Urges
Having thoughts of suicide? It is okay, friend, there are tools to help you right now. Call 1 800-273-8255 and someone will talk with you about the feelings you’re experiencing.
Self-harm is often considered as a ‘taboo’ topic of which to be kept to oneself or ignored unless there is a perceived suicidal impulse with each cut.
Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of us who have the overwhelming tendency to either cope with stress, anxiety, depression, or a different slew of emotions with a ‘harmless’ cut.
But, who is to judge what type of cut is harmful or harmless? Who’s to say that the collective small cuts may diminish our self-worth enough to leave us no other option but to make a daring dive into the overeager pool of harmful cutting?
Before we delve into a compilation of self-harm solutions, let us first acknowledge the following:
No matter how severe your cutting tendency, there is help out there for you.
You are not alone in this world, nor are you alone in the tendency to cope with emotional turmoil or pain with a cut.
You do not have to qualify to receive help by hitting an acute bottom. You do not have to cut for self-termination in order to have a problem. You have a problem if you believe, no matter how skeptically, that you have a problem.
Cutting is not something to be ashamed of; all of us cope with life in a variety of ways. Some of us go shopping or gambling, some of us drink or drug ourselves into oblivion, some of us avoid emotions by any means necessary, and some of us cut.
You are simply coping with life problems in the way that you know how: cutting.
Does that make cutting or any coping mechanism a ‘proper’ way to address life stressors? Not necessarily.
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to cope with complex, emotional situations; generally, these healthy coping mechanisms include activities that do not harm yourself or others.
You can scroll immediately to the self-harm prevention tools, or you can read one person’s story of self-harm to establish a common ground; whatever you choose, we are happy and proud of you for being right here at this exact moment.
Pain is My Motivator
I made my first cut when I was 13 years old.
I hadn’t planned my first cut nor did I spend days debating whether harming myself was a good idea.
My first cut was dramatic, it was exciting but it was also malicious.
My parents read my journal; it was as simple as that. They read my journal and I felt that it was a violation of privacy, since I had written how angry and mad I was at their strictness and follow through (disclaimer: we have a great relationship now).
My parents read my journal and I thought of the episodes of Degrassi I had watched over the duration of the year.
Ellie had a serious problem with cutting in Degrassi: Next Generation, and she, too, felt misunderstood; she felt like the black sheep among all of her friends and her family. Now was as good as any to implement Ellie’s coping mechanism in my own life.
I sat in my walk-in closet with the door closed, I grabbed a dull pair of scissors and tried cut my wrist. Only, the scissors were so dull I only made a scratch and I enjoyed the feeling of taking my pain out on myself… The pain made me feel adrenalin and excitement. So, I took the dull scissors and started sawing on my wrist until I felt enough physical pain and I saw the blood start to ooze. I wrapped my cut in toilet paper and threw on a sweatshirt.
My parents immediately asked me to look at my wrists and I was caught.
Playing soccer as a reckless goalkeeper was enough to suffice my necessity for physical pain for years to come. I would dive purposely at forwards’ feet despite my limited chance to collect the soccer ball, I had no qualms about reaching for top corner balls because hitting my head against the post was the least of my concerns; I was completely reckless, but it made me a great goalkeeper.
My cutting didn’t begin again until I was a junior in college. I had given up my soccer scholarship for mental health reasons after my freshman year, and I guess it caught up to me.
I used a breakup as my excuse to start cutting again, but really, I was thrilled at the pain that cutting brought me all over again… It was better than the cut in eighth grade.
This time, I upgraded to a switchblade, which I carried with me at all times yet I would rarely cut in public. I didn’t cut deep; I just cut wherever, whenever, and however I felt at the time. Some of the cuts left scars, some didn’t. Frankly, I didn’t care.
I got to the point where I would cut simply because I was bored and alone; no other reason.
I had to break the cycle in order to cope with the obsession to self-harm. It was not easy; I cannot tell you how many times I stood in my room with switchblade in hand ready to cut, but also steadfast on the idea that cutting was not a solution to my problems, nor was it a healthy behavior.
The following strategies greatly helped me to address my core issues and establish healthy coping mechanisms to deal with my triggers.
4 Tips To Help You Stop Self-Harm Urges
These 4 tips have been extracted from self-harm related articles and psychology articles on the Internet. They do not replace the professional help of a therapist or licensed psychologist.
If you feel the urge to harm yourself with intention for suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 and speak with a trained suicide prevention volunteer.
Tell Someone That You Are Cutting
Think of the person you trust the most... your friend, your parents, your sponsor, your roommate... Anyone.
Tell the person you trust the most that you are cutting and would like some help.
Here are some example text messages (copy and paste if you like):
"This is random but I am struggling. I have been cutting and I needed to tell someone."
"I need help. I am cutting again and I would like to stop."
It does not have to be pretty, nor does it have to have proper spelling, perfect punctuation, nor do you have to establish small talk before you get honest.
Just tell someone.
Heck, if you feel like you cannot tell anyone about your cutting, please email me at email@example.com and we can chat about everything under the sun.
Remove All Items You Can Use For Self-Harm
Do not save your razors, knife, rubber bands, scissors, or lighters in a drawer in your room, where they will simply burn a hole through the wood and become a self-harm tool once again.
Put all of your tools in a box and take them out to the dumpster and throw them away.
If you're thinking: "This is a complete waste," then grab that box and donate your tools to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
If you don't trust yourself to dispose of your tools on your own, grab the friend/parent/roommate/sibling you told that you have a cutting problem and ask them to help you.
Find a Cutting Replacement
Though I generally discourage cross-addictions, there are positive, supplementary actions you can implement in order to address your cutting habits.
Many individuals with the tendency for self-harm will get a tattoo or a piercing to achieve the same effect.
Unfortunately, this is an expensive coping strategy.
Others will brew a cup of coffee, chew a piece of gum, go for a walk, or implement a breathing exercise.
When choosing a coping strategy, make sure you both tell your confidant what you plan on doing and you make sure not to implement a strategy that is similar to cutting (i.e. Rubber band snapping, rubbing ice where you want to cut, scratching, etc.)
If you implement a similar strategy as cutting to cope with your triggers, you will prevent your body and mind from breaking the cycle of trigger-and-cut.
If, however, you brew a cup of coffee, chew a piece of gum, etc. you allow your mind to release its tight grip on the trigger and give yourself enough time to either forget about the initial trigger or implement a healthier reaction.
Journal About Your Triggers and Feelings
Go to Staples, Marshalls, Target, or your local shopping center and buy a small notebook to be deemed your new thought journal.
You will carry this thought journal with you everywhere you go to ensure that you can log your thoughts immediately when exposed to a trigger.
How it works:
- If you feel the craving to cut yourself, grab your notebook and pen and log exactly what you were thinking, what you were doing, and what you felt immediately prior to feeling the craving.
- At the end of the day, rate your craving intensity from 1-10, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest level of intensity.
When you address your cravings as a science experiment or something to be examined and studied, it seems to warrant the use of our left side of the brain, which is more analytical and less abstract.
When we elicit the analytical side of our brain, we essentially help ourselves to address our craving in an educational manner as opposed to a hypothetical manner.
A Note to Our Cutting Family
You can work through your cravings and reflexes to cut.
It will not be easy, you will not feel happy nor will you feel comfortable. You will feel uncomfortable, you will feel frustrated, you will feel incapable of success.
But, on the other side of the mess... It is well worth every single moment of frustration and sadness, every single moment of anger and self-pity.
It has been 2.5 years since I last cut myself and today it is not the first, second, third, fourth, or even 10th thought in my mind throughout the day.
That's a success if I've ever seen one.