Self-harming or self-injury is a coping mechanism that could alleviate your extreme emotional distress to a certain extent, however it has many undesirable outcomes. The urge to hurt yourself is usually born out of trauma or a deep-rooted sense of powerlessness.
Myths on Self-harm
Oftentimes, people tend to have misconceptions about people who do acts of self-harm. Such as:
- Seeking attention or sympathy
- Doing it out of spite
- Being overly sensitive or dramatic
- Doing it to manipulate someone
However, individuals who self-injure are fragile emotionally and very much sensitive to rejection. When they experience overwhelming emotions, they tend to convert their invisible pain to a visible form so that it is easier for them to deal with it. Inflicting self-harm may give you safe heaven which does not last long.
As a result, you may get caught up in a brutal cycle of performing the act continuously and be preoccupied with thoughts of it even when not engaging in the process.
Recognize the emotion behind it.
Start by noticing what situations are likely to arouse your compulsion to commit the act. Having a clear idea of the emotion behind the urge can help you to find alternative ways to cope with it. For example, anger could be one of the reasons for self-harm, and to overcome this intense emotion you can engage in physical activities such as sports. Commit to yourself that you will not be controlled by the desire to perform the act and will do something else instead.
Activities you may try when you experience the urge to perform the act.
Change your environment
Doing physical activities
Talking to someone
Listening to music
Engaging in creative activities
Involving yourself in religious activities
- Eijk, M. (2018). How not to fall apart: Lessons learned on the road from self-harm to self-care. Penguin Random House LLC.
- Kannan, K., Pillai, S., Gill, J., Koh, O., & Swami, V. (2010). Religious beliefs, coping skills and responsibility to family as factors protecting against deliberate self-harm. South African Journal of Psychiatry, 16(4), 9. https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v16i4.240
- Klonsky, E., Victor, S., & Saffer, B. (2014). Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: What We Know, and What We Need to Know. The Canadian Journal Of Psychiatry, 59(11), 565-568. https://doi.org/10.1177/070674371405901101
- Raypole, C., & Legg, T. (2021). Self harm alternatives: 7 Techniques that actually work. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/self-harm-alternatives#be-creative.
- Smith, M., Segal, J., Robinson, L., & Shubin, J. (2021). Cutting and self-harm. HelpGuide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/cutting-and-self-harm.htm.
- Sutton, J., & Alderman, T. (2007). Healing the hurt within: Understand self-injury and self-harm, and heal the emotional wounds (3rd ed.). How To Books Ltd.