People injure themselves for a variety of reasons. It may be a way to express pain you can’t express any other way. It may be a way of releasing tension. It may be a way of relieving feelings of guilt or a way of punishing yourself. Or maybe it’s a way of distracting yourself from feelings that are overwhelming. Or maybe you feel numb or dead inside and it’s a way of feeling something, a way to know you’re alive. Or maybe caring for your wounds afterward is a way to care for yourself, a way to show kindness for yourself that you don’t know how to show in any other way.
Whatever the reason for it, self-injury only provides temporary relief. Afterward, you may feel guilty or embarrassed, you may have to contend with serious wounds or even infections, and you may feel the need to hide your injuries from others that don’t understand.
There are many techniques you can use to avoid harming yourself. Not all techniques work well for everyone so you may need to experiment to find out what works for you. These techniques aren’t a substitute for therapy or other psychiatric treatment, but they can help you resist the urge to hurt yourself and get you through some tough times.
Some people find deep pressure helpful when they are extremely anxious or stressed. Many people now use weighted blankets for deep pressure therapy. These blankets, frequently used with people with autism, can help people with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions, as well. You can purchase weighted blankets, but they are fairly costly. I made one for myself and I really like it. It instantly relaxes my muscles and relieves tension. Not everyone likes them, though, so if you can, try one out before you invest in one. If you don’t have a weighted blanket, piling several quilts or comforter on top of yourself can have a similar effect.
HelpGuide, on online mental health resource, suggests putting ice on the area where you want to cut or otherwise hurt yourself, especially if you cut because you feel numb. The ice will provide a strong sensation without actually harming you. Some people prefer using ice packs instead of ice cubes; ice packs are a little less messy.
Some people find drawing lines with a red marker or red felt tip pen on their body in the area where they would usually cut serves as a substitute for actually cutting. Use washable markers if you don’t want to have red lines on your body for the next several days.
Another technique used by some people is drawing butterflies on the area of the body where you would cut or otherwise injure yourself. The idea is to leave the drawings on your body until they fade naturally, not to wash them off, and not to cut or injure yourself while you have the butterflies on your body because doing so “kills them.” Personally, I don’t want to walk around with magic marker drawings of butterflies on my arms, but then, I don’t want to walk around with cuts on my arms, either. Either one draws unwanted attention and questions. I’ve drawn butterflies, though, and washed them off later when the urge to cut was gone.
Punching Bag/Hitting Pillow
If self-injury is about anger for you, or if you injure yourself by hitting yourself or banging your head against the wall, hitting a punching bag or a pillow might help.
If cutting or otherwise harming yourself is a way of expressing feelings you don’t know how to express otherwise, you can try journaling. If you have trouble expressing your feelings in words, try drawing, doodling making a collage from words and images cut from magazines instead.
HelpGuide. Cutting and Self-Harm.
The Suicide Project. The Butterfly Project.
Also by this contributor:
How to Make a Weighted Blanket
Fast and Simple Ways to Improve Your Mental Health