Self-harm is a serious and often misunderstood problem that affects many people. If you or someone you know is struggling with self-harm, it’s important to know that help is available.
People who self-harm often experience mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. They may do it as a form of self-punishment or a coping mechanism for overwhelming feelings.
Resisting the urge to self-harm can be challenging, but here are some strategies to stop and take control of your life.
1. Reach Out for Support
The first step to stopping self-harm is to reach out for support. This can be difficult, as self-harm is often kept secret, but it’s important to talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through. This could be a friend, family member, or mental health professional. Remember, you’re not alone; some people care about you and want to help.
To build or strengthen your support group, try the following:
- Attend support groups for mental health or self-harm specifically.
- Exchange contact information with support group members to stay connected.
- Encourage loved ones to get involved in your recovery program.
- Volunteer for good causes in your community.
2. Reach Out For Professional Help
Self-harm is often a symptom of underlying mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Seeking professional help can help you address these issues and develop healthier coping strategies. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about your concerns and work together to develop a treatment plan that works for you.
Use these five strategies to find mental health services near you:
- Explore online mental health services platforms. A study found that online cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety and depression is as effective as face-to-face therapy.
- Explore your insurer’s mental health provider database. Call your insurer or search their online database for available services if you’re insured.
- Seek mental health services in your community. Your university, local recreation and health center, or local hospital may have mental health services available to you.
- If you’re uninsured or unsatisfied with what your insurance provides, you can explore private therapists near you.
- Ask your friend or family circle for mental health services they may have used before. Do not ask a friend or family member who is a therapist to treat you. That would be unprofessional and defeat the purpose of therapy.
3. Learn To Identify And Avoid Triggers
Self-harm often occurs as a way of coping with difficult emotions or situations. Identifying triggers that lead to self-harm can help you anticipate and manage these situations. Keep a journal or use an app to track when you feel the urge to self-harm, what was happening then, and how you felt. This can help you identify patterns and develop strategies to cope with these triggers.
To recognize your triggers, try to analyze the following:
- The thoughts and feelings that often precede the urge to self-harm, like strong negative emotions and their causes.
- The experiences, people, or objects that cause stress and thoughts of self-harm.
- The physical sensations often precede self-harm, like a racing heart.
4. Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Instead of self-harming, try to find healthier ways to cope with difficult emotions. This could be anything from exercising, journaling, or practicing deep breathing exercises. Find activities that bring you joy and help you relax. List these activities and refer to them when you feel the urge to self-harm.
Try these coping mechanisms that can help you:
- Do body scans to check in with yourself.
- Spend at least 30 minutes of your day outside.
- Listen to music that makes you feel calm and happy.
- Try a guided meditation to force you to sit back and relax.
- Explore harm minimization techniques.
5. Create a Safety Plan
Having a safety plan can help you stay safe during times of crisis. Your safety plan should include a list of emergency contacts, coping strategies, and steps you can take to distract yourself from self-harming. Keep your safety plan in a place where you can easily access it and share it with someone you trust.
Your safety plan should at least include the following:
- Coping strategies that work for you.
- Personal warning signs and triggers.
- People and places that serve as a distraction.
- Trusted people that can be reached out for help.
- Ways to keep the environment safe.
6. Be Kind to Yourself
Recovery from self-harm is a process, and being patient and kind to yourself is important. Celebrate small victories, and remember that setbacks are a natural part of the process. Don’t give up, and remember that recovery is possible.
Here are some ways to be kind to yourself:
- Talk kindly to yourself, preferably out loud.
- Practice gratitude and write down things you feel grateful for every day.
- Treat yourself to something you like or want.
Seek Professional Help
Self-harm is often a symptom of underlying mental health issues like depression or anxiety. If you or someone you know self-harms, seek professional help. Seeking professional help can help you address these issues and develop healthier coping strategies. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about your concerns and work together to develop a treatment plan that works for you.
Stopping self-harm is not easy, but it is possible. Staying committed to managing or overcoming self-harm is a combination of multiple coping skills, self-care practices, professional help, and a loving support system.
Anyone who’s ever recovered from mental health challenges can say that some days are more demanding than others, and that’s normal. The important thing is to surround yourself with a system that actively encourages and provides recovery strategies.