How to Stop Self-Harming

By Cheryl Rainfield 2011, updated 2020

It can feel hard to stop self-harming, even when you want to, when it has helped you cope for so long–pulled you out of overwhelming emotional pain, despair, depression, or trauma memories, helped you keep from killing yourself, kept yourself from talking about that trauma–however you used it. BUT even though it helped you, self-harm hurts you, too.

Every time you cut to self-harm, you risk your life. You may not believe it, but it’s true; if you cut an artery by mistake, you won’t have time to call for help.  You risk infection, which untreated can become very serious. You also risk damaging your body permanently–creating nerve damage, tendon damage, and distorting your body.

And then, of course, there is the shame; the increased isolation; the constantly trying to hide it; the negative attention, judgement, or ridicule by others; the social awkwardness. The scars are forever.

So if you want to stop, I am so proud of you! That is the first step. Wanting to. 

 Here are some things that helped me stop self-harming:

  • Love yourself, even just a little, enough to know that you don’t deserve to be hurt;
  • Really take in love, kindness, and compassion from others, as well as positives;
  • Talk to someone safe about your self-harm, and what is behind it (WHY you do it, what you’re trying to escape or deal with);
  • Ask for support. You deserve to be supported, to be treated kindly, and to get help for what you are dealing with;
  • Figure out what sets off your self-harm, and what you felt before you hurt yourself;
  • Get out the emotion in safe ways—art, dance, music, writing, sports;
  • Distract yourself, and find alternatives to hurting yourself—even if it’s only for five minutes at a time, and then five minutes more.
  • Realize that stopping self-harm is a process. Every time you’ve put it off a little longer, you’ve done well;
  • Know that you do NOT deserve to be hurt, not ever–not even by yourself. You deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion, and love. You deserve to treat yourself that way.

Written by Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars, a teen novel about a girl who self-harms to cope with abuse.

Click here to download How to Stop Self-Harming.

©Cheryl Rainfield 2011, updated September 2020.

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