Alternatives to self-harm (focused on cutting)

Self-harm is when someone deliberately hurts or injures him or herself. This can take a number of forms including:

* cutting

* taking overdoses of tablets or medicines

* punching oneself

* throwing their bodies against something

* pulling out hair or eyelashes

* scratching, picking or tearing at one’s skin causing sores and scarring

* burning

* inhaling or sniffing harmful substances

Somepeople self-harm on a regular basis while others do it just once or afew times. For some people it is part of coping with a specific problemand they stop once the problem is resolved. Other people self-harm foryears whenever certain kinds of pressures or feelings arise.

Afew people who self-harm may go on to commit suicide – generally thesisnot what they intend to do. In fact, self-harm can be seen as the’opposite’ of suicide as it is often a way of coping with life ratherthan of giving up.

There are many methods that are meant to helpwhen the urge to SI overcomes you, some work, some don’t. One way toincrease the chances of a distraction/substitution helping calm theurge to harm is to match what you do to how you are feeling at themoment.

First, take a few moments and look behind the urge. What are you feeling? Are you angry? Frustrated? Restless? Sad? Craving the feeling of SI? Depersonalized and unreal or numb? Unfocused?

Next, match the activity to the feeling.

A few examples:

Angry, frustrated, restless

Try something physical and violent, something not directed at a living thing:

– Slash an empty plastic soda bottle or a piece of heavy cardboard or an old shirt or sock.

– Make a soft cloth doll to represent the things you are angry at. Cut and tear it instead of yourself.

– Flatten aluminium cans for recycling, seeing how fast you can go.

– Hit a punching bag.

– Use a pillow to hit a wall, pillow-fight style.

– Rip up an old newspaper or phone book.

– On a sketch or photo of yourself, mark in red ink what you want to do. Cut and tear the picture.

– Make Play-Doh or Sculpey or other clay models and cut or smash them.

– Throw ice into the bathtub or against a brick wall hard enough to shatter it.

– Break sticks.

– Yell at what you are breaking and tell it why you are angry, hurt, upset, etc.

– Crank up the music and dance.

– Clean your room, or your whole house.

– Go for a walk/jog/run.

– Stomp around in heavy shoes.

– Play handball or tennis.

– Scratch/draw a picture on a thick piece of wood or use a screwdriver and stab at a piece of wood.

-Take the item that you are self-injuring with and use it againstsomething else. For example, if you are using a razor blade rip itacross a towel or plastic pop bottle. Sometimes seeing what “can” bedone to an object can make a person think twice about using it onthemselves. Can also give the feeling of “doing it”.

Sad, soft, melancholy, depressed, unhappy

Do something slow and soothing:

– Take a hot bath with bath oil or bubbles.

– Curl up under a comforter with hot cocoa and a good book.

– Babying yourself somehow.

– Do whatever makes you feel taken care of and comforted.

– Light sweet smelling incense.

– Listen to soothing music.

– Smooth nice body lotion into the parts of yourself you want to hurt.

– Call a friend and just talk about things that you like.

– Make a tray of special treats and tuck yourself into bed with it and watch TV or read.

– Visit a friend.

-Instead of harming yourself, try massaging the area you want to harmwith massage oils or creams, reminding yourself that you are specialand you deserve to treat yourself and your body with love and respect.

Craving sensation, feeling depersonalized, dissociating, feeling unreal

Do something that creates sharp physical sensation:

-Squeeze ice hard (this really hurts). (Note: Putting ice on a spot youwant to burn gives you a strong painful sensation and leaves a red markafterward, kind of like burning would).

– Put a finger into a frozen food (like ice cream) for a minute.

– Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root.

-Focus on what is real and around you right then. Start lists of thingsaround you in detail i.e. colour, texture, smell, shape, etc.

– Slap a table hard.

– Snap your wrist with a rubber band.

– Take a cold bath.

– Stomp your feet on the ground.

– Focus on how it feels to breathe. Notice the way your chest and stomach move with each breath.

Wanting focus

-Do a task (a computer game like Tetris, or minesweeper, writing acomputer program, needlework, etc.) that is exacting and requires focusand concentration.

– Choose an object in the room. Examine itcarefully and then write as detailed a description of it as you can.Include everything: size, weight, texture, shape, colour, possibleuses, feel, etc.

– Choose a random object, like a paper clip, and try to list 30 different uses, and try to list 30 different uses for it.

– Pick a subject and research it on the web.

Wanting to see blood

– Draw on yourself with a red felt-tip pen.

-Take a small bottle of liquid red food colouring and warm it slightlyby dropping it into a cup of hot water for a few minutes. Uncap thebottle and press its’ tip against the place you want to cut. Draw thebottle in a cutting motion while squeezing it slightly to let the foodcolour trickle out.

– Draw on the areas you want to cut using icethat you’ve made by dropping six or seven drops of red food colour intoeach of the ice-cube trays.

– Paint yourself with red tempera paint.

Wanting to see scars or pick scabs

-Get a henna tattoo kit. You put the henna on as a paste and leave itovernight; the next day you can pick it off as you would a scab and itleaves an orange-red mark behind.

– Another thing that helpssometimes is the fifteen-minute game. Tell yourself that if you stillwant to harm yourself in 15 minutes, you can. When the time is up, seeif you can go another 15.

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