3 Ways to Overcome Self-harm Tendencies

Welcome to a topic that is often misunderstood and stigmatized – self-harm. It’s a topic that might be unpleasant to talk about, yet it affects millions of individuals throughout the world. Self-harm is a common coping method used by many people to deal with strong emotions or anxiety, but it can quickly turn deadly and even life-threatening. In this blog piece, we will delve into the realities of self-harm, analyze its prevalence, and discuss a few most asked questions, and coping mechanisms. It’s time to put a light on this critical topic and provide hope and assistance to individuals who may be struggling. Also, a brownie point: This article contains a self -help worksheet too!


  • Self-harm can have major repercussions and may easily develop into an addictive, risky activity.
  • Mental health problems and self-harm are frequently connected. According to research, those who self-harm are more likely to experience sadness, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
  • Anybody who engages in self-harm, regardless of age, gender, or upbringing, may be affected.
  • It’s critical to understand that support and assistance are available if you struggle with self-harm. Read the complete article to find effective tips for overcoming self-harm tendencies


The ugly truth behind self-harm

Although the subject of self-harm can make some people uneasy, it’s a reality for many people who find it difficult to deal with intense emotions or painful events. There are several ways to damage oneself, including cutting, burning, or beating oneself. It’s a habit that can be hidden and kept secret, making it difficult for loved ones and friends to identify.

The reality of self-harm is that it has major repercussions and may easily develop into an addictive, risky activity. While it may bring momentary comfort from emotional suffering, it can create long-term health and psychological harm. It may be challenging for people to move on when their prior traumas and battles are still visible in their physical scars.

Imagine a young individual who feels imprisoned in a circumstance that they can’t control. They might experience stress, helplessness, and isolation. To deal with these emotions, individuals turn to self-harm, but they quickly realize that they are powerless to stop. Their everyday lives, relationships, and general well-being begin to suffer as a result of the habit, which develops into a vicious cycle they are unable to break.

Imagine a different scenario right now. When a person has gone through trauma in their life, they may turn to self-harm as a means to cope with the suffering. They could believe that the physical suffering they subject themselves to is less difficult to handle than the internal emotional suffering. People could hide their activity out of concern for the criticism and stigma attached to self-harm.

The reality is that self-harm is a complicated issue that needs for comprehension, sympathy, and efficient support. It’s critical to spot the warning symptoms of self-harm and help individuals who might be in need. Effective coping mechanisms and therapies are available, including counseling, medication, and mindfulness exercises. It’s time to end the taboo surrounding self-harm and offers encouragement to anyone who may be struggling.

Prevalence of self-harm

The following are some important details on the prevalence of self-harm:

  • Self-harm happens more frequently than you may imagine. A research that was written up in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that up to 17% of teenagers and young adults had self-harmed in the past.
  • It is found that self-harm is more prevalent in women. According to a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, women self-harm at a rate that is 3.3 times higher than men’s.
  • Self-harm and mental health problems are frequently connected. According to research, those who self-harm are more likely to experience sadness, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
  • Self-harm may be becoming more common. According to a study in The Lancet Psychiatry, the number of self-harm hospital admissions in England rose by 68% between 1997 and 2018.
  • Self-harm is frequently used as a coping strategy by people who are overburdened or unable to express their feelings in other ways. Although self-harm does not constitute a suicide attempt, it can increase the likelihood of engaging in suicidal conduct.

The self-harm cycle

Self-harm typically begins as a means of releasing pressure from upsetting thoughts and feelings. This may provide the person with momentary solace from their emotional suffering. It’s critical to understand that this respite is only transitory because the fundamental causes continue to exist. After that, you could experience guilt and humiliation, which might keep the cycle going. The cycle includes a variety of ideas, emotions, and actions that might result in self-harm.

Here are a few instances of the self-harm cycle in action:
  • Strong emotions: An occurrence that sets off strong emotions is referred to as a trigger. Examples include arguments with friends, challenging exams, or tragic experiences.
  • Emotional Distress: The strong emotions become too much to handle, which causes anguish and a feeling of being out of control.
  • Self-harming desires or cravings: As a strategy to deal with the upsetting emotions, the person may have these urges or cravings.
  • Self-Harm: The individual harms themselves, which may offer momentary relief from the emotional suffering.
  • Temporary Relief: Self-harming is not a long-term solution, although it may offer momentary release from emotional anguish and distress.
  • Guilt and Shame: The cycle of self-harm may cause the individual to feel guilty and humiliated about doing it.
  • More triggers: Another trigger could restart the cycle, causing additional emotional discomfort and suicidal thoughts.

Self-harm can become a person’s default method of coping with challenges in life since it may provide some initial transient solace. In order to receive the appropriate support and assistance, it is crucial to speak with someone as soon as possible. Long-term self-harm cycle disruption may be made simpler by learning new coping mechanisms to handle these challenges.

Read Blog: Handling Guilt: The 3 Types and How to Cope

Myth 1: Attention-seekers are those who self-harm.

Fact: This is a typical misunderstanding. Self-harmers typically conceal their actions and take great pains to cover up any wounds or scars. They may feel embarrassed to ask for help because they are frequently ashamed of their actions.

Myth 2: Attempting suicide by self-harm.

Although self-harm can increase the risk of suicide, the majority of those who self-harm do not aim to take their own lives. Self-harm is frequently used as a coping strategy to deal with strong emotions or numbing feelings.

Misconception 3: Only adolescent people self-harm.

Fact: People of all ages, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds can engage in self-harm. It is not just for young adults or teenagers.

Misconception #4: Self-harmers have mental illnesses.

Truth: Not everyone who self-harms has a diagnosable mental illness, despite the fact that self-harm can be a symptom of a mental illness like depression or anxiety.

Myth 5: Physical self-harm is the only type.

Truth: Self-harm can occur in a variety of ways, including cutting, burning, scratching, hitting, and more. Moreover, it might take non-physical forms like dangerous behavior or drug usage.

Who self-harms?

Anybody who engages in self-harm, regardless of age, gender, or upbringing, may be affected. In reality, research has demonstrated that self-harm affects people from various socioeconomic backgrounds, ages, and areas of life.

Self-harmers may be struggling with a variety of problems, such as stress, trauma, depression, or anxiety. They can be having a hard time coping with painful situations or feeling overtaken by uncomfortable feelings.

For instance, a kid who experiences bullying at school may self-harm as a coping mechanism for the mental anguish they are going through. Self-harm is another option that an adult who is going through a tough divorce or losing a loved one may use to cope with their overwhelming emotions.

It’s critical to understand that self-harm is not a choice and neither is it a manifestation of weakness nor a desire for attention. It is a complicated problem that calls for compassion and assistance from family members and mental health experts.

How can I stop harming myself?

It’s critical to understand that support and assistance are available if you struggle with self-harm. The following advice will assist you in quitting self-harm:

  • Ask for help: Ask for expert assistance from a therapist or counsellor. They can offer assistance and direction on how to control challenging emotions and create healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Identify triggers: Make an effort to pinpoint the situations, ideas, or emotions that serve as triggers for self-harm. If you are aware of your triggers, you can focus on creating coping mechanisms to deal with them without resorting to self-harm.
  • Practice self-care: Take part in activities that foster self-care and self-compassion, such having a warm bath, going on a stroll, or engaging in meditation or deep breathing exercises.
  • Find coping mechanisms: Discover additional coping mechanisms that can assist you in managing challenging emotions, such as journaling, painting, listening to music, or speaking to a friend.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle: Adopt healthy lifestyle adjustments, such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising frequently, to improve your way of life. These adjustments can raise your mood generally and lessen the desire to harm yourself.

I am engaging in self-harm frequently, shall I tell someone?

Yes. The first step to breaking the loop is frequently talking to someone.

You might find it tough to discuss your self-harm and the causes of it because it isn’t an easy thing to do. This is typical because many young people who self-harm find it very challenging to ask for help. However, it is a critical step in healing and feeling better.

It takes strength and courage to disclose one’s self-harm, and it may frequently be relieving to reveal such a secret to someone. Never hesitate to ask for assistance when and however you need it. Speaking openly about your emotions is not a sign of fragility.

It demonstrates that you are in command of your health and taking the necessary steps to maintain it. The ability to communicate your feelings is not always simple. Use as many words as necessary to convey your feelings if you are struggling to come up with just one.

Talking can help you deal with a situation that has been bothering you for a time. Being heard might increase your sense of support. Additionally, it goes both ways: if you open yourself, it might inspire others to do so.

3 Tips to amp up your self-harm recovery process

Identify what triggers your self-harm tendencies

Identifying triggers is a useful coping technique for dealing with self-harm. Events or circumstances known as triggers can produce strong feelings of tension or anxiety and can also cause self-harming behavior. By identifying and understanding your triggers, you can design a plan to manage and cope with them in better ways.

The following are some typical triggers and how they affect self-harm behavior:
  • Stress: Stressful situations, such as work deadlines, interpersonal conflicts, or money challenges, can lead to self-harm behavior. Self-physical harm’s pain might provide momentary relief from emotional tension.
  • Trauma: Traumatic experiences like abuse, abandonment, or violence can cause a person to harm themselves. Self-harm can be a coping mechanism for difficult memories or helplessness.

Read Blog: Trauma: How to Manage health when grappling with trauma?

  • Negative self-talk: Negative self-talk, such as self-criticism or self-doubt, can lead to self-harm behaviour. It can lead to low self-esteem and the perception that physical discomfort is warranted.

Read blog: Overcoming Negative Thoughts: Proven Strategies to Decrease Their Power

  • Social isolation: Social isolation or feelings of loneliness might lead to self-harm behaviour. It can be used to deal with emotions of separation or to gain a sense of control.
  • Mental health concerns: Mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or borderline personality disorder, can lead to self-harm behavior. It can be used to cope with powerful emotions or to divert attention away from sensations of emptiness or numbness.

Read e-book: All that you need to know about anxiety

Find ways to divert attention from self-harm

Distraction tactics can help you “surf the wave” of emotion and resist the impulse to damage yourself when you feel the urge to do so. You can try the following distraction techniques: 

  • To let rid of distressing ideas and sensations, write them down. Next, crumple the page, break it apart, and toss it away.
  • Get some play dough To release stress, squeeze or stretch it.
  • To let out your irritation and rage, strike a pillow or cushion.
  • Scream loudly into a cushion or pillow.
  • Breathe for a moment or practice meditation
  • To get away from triggers, go for a walk. You have the time and space to curb the temptation to harm yourself when you’re in a public setting.
  • Create a lot of noise, whether it be with an instrument or just pots and pans pounding.
  • On a large piece of paper, scribble using a red crayon or marker.
  • Speak with friends or relatives by calling them. Self-harm needn’t be the focus of this.
  • Make a colorful collage to reflect your mood or to serve as a reminder of your favorite items.
  • Watch a movie you like or listen to music you like.
  • Browse self-help websites online.
  • If something is triggering you, talk to someone about it or get professional assistance.

Practice compassion and be kind towards yourself

Being compassionate and gentle to oneself is another excellent coping method for dealing with self-harm. Self-harm frequently results from having a poor perception of oneself and can feed a vicious cycle of self-judgment and self-hatred. You can break this cycle and discover how to accept and love yourself just the way you are by engaging in self-compassion and self-kindness practices.

Following are some typical ways for developing self-compassion and self-kindness, along with their effects:
  • Positive self-talk: Work on replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations when they come to mind. Try saying “I am valued and worthy of love” as an example, rather than “I am worthless.”
  • Self-care: Participate in activities that make you feel good, such as exercise, taking a bath, or reading a book. You may feel more at ease and cared for after engaging in these activities.
  • Mindfulness: Use techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to cultivate mindfulness. These approaches can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions, allowing you to better manage them.
  • Gratitude: Exercise gratitude by focusing on the things in your life for which you are grateful. This can assist you in shifting your emphasis from negative to good ideas.
  • Get assistance: Speak with a trusted friend or family member, or join a support group. Talking to people who have had similar experiences can help you feel less alone and create a feeling of camaraderie and understanding.
  • Cultivating self-compassion and self-kindness can be a helpful tool in overcoming self-harm. You may interrupt the cycle of self-criticism and self-hatred by learning to love and accept oneself, paving the way for healing and recovery.

Read Blog: How to stop self criticizing + Case Studies and Free Worksheet


The reality of self-harm is a difficult and sensitive topic that deserves our attention and understanding. It’s important to recognize that self-harm is often a coping mechanism for individuals who are struggling with intense emotions, past traumas, or other mental health issues. However, it’s crucial to understand that self-harm can quickly become dangerous and life-threatening, and should not be dismissed or ignored.

It’s time to break the silence and stigma surrounding self-harm and provide support and understanding to those who may be struggling. Whether you’re someone who is struggling with self-harm, or you know someone who is, it’s important to seek help and support. This can include speaking with a mental health professional, reaching out to a support group, or confiding in a trusted friend or family member. Individuals who struggle with self-harm can learn to cope with their emotions in healthier ways and break free from the cycle of self-harm. Let’s work together to create a world where individuals feel understood, supported, and empowered to seek the help they need to overcome self-harm.

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