Coping with the urge to self-harm


Why do I want to self-harm?

In periods of great emotional distress you may find that you are drawn to destructive behaviours such as self-injury. This may be a way for you to cope with these difficult feelings, and act as a temporary release from overwhelming emotional pain. However, if you don’t learn to deal with the underlying issues surrounding your urge to self-harm, you will find that you are repeating these actions when negative feelings come back.

How come I can stop myself sometimes, and sometimes I have no control?

It is scary to find that one day you may be perfectly able to deal with destructive behaviour, and another day it may feel completely out of your control. This is because when you are doing well, or having a good day, it is easier to ride on those feelings and your ability to control the urge is stronger. But when you are already emotionally vulnerable you may find that just the smallest thing can tip you over the edge and you feel like you have no choice but to follow the urge.

I don’t want to self-harm right now

Excellent, it’s a good time to start working out some tools that could be useful for you when you are more emotionally vulnerable. Remember how I said that when you were feeling better, the urge to hurt yourself lessened? Take this time to write out some strategies for when you find you have the urge to self-harm, such as writing out a time when you managed to stop yourself from self-harming, and how you did it.

I want to self-harm right now

I understand that you must be going through a great emotional turmoil right now. Remember that your feelings, whatever they might be, are valid. You are allowed to feel the way you do. So I’m going to list you some things you can do to either prevent you from hurting yourself, or to help ease the urge for as long as possible.

I know it seems impossible, I know it seems ridiculous and immensely hard to focus on anything else right now, but just keep reading.

If the urge is really strong –

10 second rule: Give it ten seconds. Focus on breathing deeply. Close your eyes. In, Out, In, Out. Simple. After 10 seconds open your eyes. Then shut them tight again. 10 more seconds. Breathe in, and out. You just have to last 10 seconds. You’ve done it already. You’ve been doing it your whole life. 10 seconds at a time.

15 minute rule: Use the above rule, but gun for 15 minutes. This time do something to distract yourself. Count in your head. Look around you and name all the shapes you see. All the colours. Shift your focus. Write down what you’re feeling. Do some free-writing, let it all spill onto the page, don’t hold anything back inside you.

If you have to see blood –

Get a red marker and draw where you would cut or punch

If you have to feel pain –

Grab an ice cube in the palm of your hand and squeeze; trust me, it hurts more than you think. But doesn’t leave a mark

Stretch out a limb, stretch it as if you were warming up for exercising. Keep stretching, keep flexing, let the endorphins from the pain course through you an dissipate the urge

Put a rubber band on your wrist and pull and snap to get a sharp jolt of pain

If you’re angry –

Get a pen and sheet of paper and scribble. Just tear the paper to shreds. Keep going in circles until the whole page is filled

Exercise vigorously: run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag

Rip something up like sheets of paper or a whole damn magazine

Make some noise – play an instrument or bang on pots and pans

Punch a pillow or cushion to release pent up anger without leaving scars

If you are agitated –

Take a bath or hot shower to refresh your nerves

Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat for a calming, soothing sensation

Wrap yourself in a warm blanket and become a safe, round ball

Massage your neck, hands, and feet. The act of slowing down can help greatly

Listen to calming music or music that you know helps you

If you’re dissociating or numb –

Call a friend (you don’t have to talk about self-harm, just talk)

Take a cold shower to try and break the ‘fugue’

Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg

Chew something with a very strong taste, like chilli peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel

If you are in need of urgent help right now, click here for help and support

3 responses to “Coping with the urge to self-harm


  2. Pingback: The Kids Aren’t Alright – Why we need to stop romanticising mental illness | THE BPD INFORMER·

  3. Pingback: Survey Results – “The Silence on Mental Health” | THE BPD INFORMER·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s