“Behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations are all linked; each influences the others. Therefore, by changing what happens in one area, you also change what occurs in the others. The ultimate goal is to alter each of these areas enough so that you not only no longer hurt yourself but you also no longer feel the desire or need to hurt yourself.”
Many people don’t realize that any form of self-harm (be it cutting, burning, scratching, etc.) can often turn to an addiction. If anyone has studied psychology, or knows someone with a drug/alcohol addiction, then you know it’s not simple for that person to just stop the harmful behavior. Like any form of addiction, realizing you have a problem and feeling the need to make change your habit is the first step to getting you “clean.” It takes hard work, dedication, and a strong will-power. It’s not going to be easy, and you shouldn’t be doing it for anyone but yourself. This post will cover a few methods for preventing/delaying the urge to self-harm, and hopefully if you practice these enough, you will be able to stop all together.
1. Reasoning with yourself.
When your mind is clear and you are in a good place and don’t feel the urge to self-harm, write a list of reasons why you want to avoid self-harm. This list will be different for each person, and it all depends on what works best for you. Write your list on a bright piece of paper, or write in bright markers, and hang it somewhere where you will see it (by the area where you keep your razors/scissors, etc., on your desk, bulletin board, etc.)
If you’re stuck as to what to write, here are a few things that you could include in your list:
- I know I will regret the damage mentally/physically afterwards.
- I don’t want to end up in the hospital.
- This doesn’t solve anything.
- This is a temporary fix that will only cause me more hurt.
- I’ve gone ________(days/weeks/months/years) without self-harming, and I don’t want to ruin that record.
- It’s hard to start once I’ve stopped.
- I don’t want to have (more) scars.
- Repeat to yourself: “I don’t deserve to be hurt.” (even if you don’t believe it’s true)
- The guilt afterwards isn’t worth it.
- There are safer ways to find relief.
- I deserve to be loved. Love yourself, don’t hurt yourself.
2. Create a safe environment
- Try to identify the things that cause you to self-harm. When you’re in a good state of mind, remove the temptation completely, or figure out ways to avoid it (if you can).
- Stay with a friend/family member if you fee; the urge to cut.
- Don’t stockpile medicine.
- Keep things you harm yourself with or could potentially harm yourself with locked up somewhere. Even if you have the key/combination, it will take you a bit longer to grab the essentials to unlock it, and hopefully will give you time to think between hurting yourself and doing it.
- When you have the urge to self-harm, you are often not in a proper state of mind to tell yourself to stop or to get yourself in a safe environment. If that’s the case, please check out my previous post, Alternatives For Self-Harm and Distraction Techniques. These can give you what you were seeking (Needing to feel pain, needing a physical outlet, letting out emotions, etc) without hurting yourself or self-harming.
3. Learn Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (from webmd)
The focus and method of cognitive behavioral therapy sets it apart from other, more traditional therapies:
- CBT is based on two specific tasks: cognitive restructuring, in which the therapist and patient work together to change thinking patterns, and behavioral activation — in which patients learn to overcome obstacles to participating in enjoyable activities. CBT focuses on the immediate present: what and how a person thinks more than why a person thinks that way.
- CBT focuses on specific problems. In individual or group sessions, problem behaviors and problem thinking are identified, prioritized, and specifically addressed.
- CBT is goal oriented. Patients working with their therapists are asked to define goals for each session as well as longer-term goals. Longer-term goals may take several weeks or months to achieve. Some goals may even be targeted for completion after the sessions come to an end.
- The approach of CBT is educational. The therapist uses structured learning experiences that teach patients to monitor and write down their negative thoughts and mental images. The goal is to recognize how those ideas affect their mood, behavior, and physical condition. Therapists also teach important coping skills, such as problem solving and scheduling pleasurable experiences.
- CBT patients are expected to take an active role in their learning, in the session and between sessions. They are given homework assignments at each session — some of them graded in the beginning — and the assignment tasks are reviewed at the start of the next session.
- CBT employs multiple strategies, including Socratic questioning, role playing, imagery, guided discovery, and behavioral experiments.
4. Rewarding yourself
Set a time period for yourself. If you can go a certain amount of days/weeks/months etc., without self-harming, reward yourself. Put something you care about aside or hidden away, and once you go a certain amount of time without relapsing, allow yourself to have it. Treat yourself to dinner, do the sticker chart like you had when you were in pre-school. Just love yourself! Look in the mirror and tell yourself how proud of yourself you are for staying clean.
Please see my previous post “Dealing with Relapse“, where I talk about other methods of stopping (but I didn’t mention them here because they were already mentioned in that post.) These methods deal with identifying your methods and recognizing why you relapsed. Once you can identify those, it becomes easier to stop.
As I said earlier, everyone is different. Some of these things may work for you, or maybe this entire list was a complete waste of your time. Recovery happens at your own pace and on your own time. No one can force you into doing any of these things; you are the only one who ultimately makes the decisions about recovery on your own terms. You won’t stop self-harming over night, and there will be times where you will want to relapse/will relapse. Don’t beat yourself up over a relapse; it’s not pleasant, but the past is the past. All you can do is focus on a brighter future, and use relapse as a teaching tool to help you prevent it in the future.
Please let me know in the comments if this was helpful to you at all, or if you have a technique that you use that I haven’t mentioned. Recovery can be scary and difficult, but you are not alone. An old saying goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” Take the steps you need to get better at your own pace, and you will eventually get to a happier and healthier end. Best of luck to anyone embarking on their journey to recovery, and stay strong!