Self-harm can be focusing, calming. It can give a person a feeling of control over their lives and their bodies which they have experienced no other way. People trying to help cutters should not try to take this coping mechanism away from the cutters without helping them first come to terms with things that trigger incidents and learning new, healthier coping mechanisms with which to replace the old ones. For many self-injurers, self-mutilation seems the only appropriate response to the state of the world and to how they’re feeling about it and about themselves.
Many self-injurers are extremely intelligent, sensitive, and creative people who have a hypersensitivity to the world around them.” It has been reported that many people who self-injure have a history of sexual or physical abuse, but that is not always the case. Some may come from broken homes, alcoholic homes, have emotionally absent parents, etc.
There are many factors that could cause someone to self-injure as a way to cope. These suggestions have been provided by individuals who self injured and what they found helpful to them. If you feel that a certain suggestion may in fact cause you to want to self injure even more, do NOT use that suggestion.
- deep breathing
- relaxation techniques
- call a friend, your therapist or a crisis line
- try not be be alone (visit a friend, go shopping, etc.)
- take a hot bath
- listen to music
- go for a walk
- write in a journal
- wear an elastic around wrist and snap it when you have the urge to harm yourself
- some people find it helpful to draw red lines on themselves instead of cutting themselves
- hold ice cubes in your hands – the cold causes pain in your hands, but it is not dangerous or harmful (some people find it relieves the urge to harm themselves for that moment)
- punching a bed or a pillow (when nothing but a physical outlet for your anger and frustration will work).
- scratch draw a picture on a thick piece of wood or use a screw driver and stab at the piece of wood. (can be another physical way to release your emotions without harming yourself.)
- avoid temptation (i.e. avoiding the area in CVS where the razor blades are kept, etc.)
- try to find your own creative ways as outlets for emotions.
- learn to confront others/making your own feelings known instead of keeping them inside
- take up a sport (a form of exercise can help you release tension, etc.)
- draw a picture of what or who is making you angry
- instead of harming yourself, try massaging the area you want to harm with massage oils or creams, reminding yourself that you are special and you deserve to treat yourself and your body with love and respect
- go to church or your place of worship
- break the object that you use to self-injure as a way to show that you have control over it.
- do some household chores (i.e. cleaning)
- do some cooking
- try some sewing, crossstitch, etc.
- recite a poem, prayer or anything else familiar the comforts you multiple times
- write down all your positive points and why you do not deserve to be hurt
- allow yourself to cry. Getting the tears out can make you feel better. It allows the inside to release, as opposed to self abuse. Picture your “ickies” pouring out as you cry.
- Take a shower
Treatment for self-mutilation
Treatment for self-mutilating patients takes a number of different forms. A combination of treatments may provide the most effective manner to treat this disease. A variety of treatments are described below: Self-Help Books: Psychologists such as Dr. Alderman publish books with exercises designed to help self-mutilators overcome the need to harm. The books involve writing exercises that help them understand why they injure themselves and the results of their behavior, such as scarring and social isolation. Medical Treatment: Effective medical treatment should involve a combination of psychotherapy and possibly medication.
An effective therapist will help an individual identify the feelings and emotions associated with self-mutilation. Furthermore, therapy should focus on learning to use positive behaviors as an alternative to self-mutilation.Although there is no specific drug of choice to treat self-mutilation, medications that alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and sleep-impairment are often popular. Preliminary research has found decreased serotonergic activity in self-mutilators, and hence selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine and sertraline are often used.