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Self Harm Series: Part 4

Content Warning: This blog will be discussing Self Harm.

This is the fourth installment of the four-part series on Self Harm. This part will be focusing on how to treat Self Harm and how to avoid Self Harm impulses in the future. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911 or your country’s local emergency number. If you are struggling with thoughts of Self Harm, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HELLO to 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

In this final part of the Self Harm series, we will take a look at what kind of behaviors can replace the actions of Self Harm. We will also discuss what kind of treatments generally work best for curbing Self Harm impulses. It’s important to remember that treatment and recovery is a very individual process and a one size fits all approach will not work. The ideas discussed may work, but for the most effective results a plan should be devised that works best for you and your lifestyle.

What are ways to prevent Self Harm?

Now that we’ve discussed what steps to take to seek help for yourself or others, let’s look at different methods of preventing Self Harm. Hannah Taddie, a clinician at Telebehavioral Health.US, offers several different methods to help prevent Self Harm. “To really get at [the root of the behavior], you would need to do some therapy around identifying the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors...thought journaling, or behavioral tracking, [Cognitive Behavioral Therapy] techniques...mindfulness-based skills...deep breathing, meditating, being present with uncomfortable things, and really practicing that. It’s like running, you can’t just run a marathon, you have to start small. ”

There are many different ways to distract yourself from thoughts of Self Harm. Sometimes the distractions can depend on what kind of emotion you are feeling that is causing the thoughts of Self Harm, like anger or isolation or sadness. A document created by Cornell helps list what kinds of distractions from Self Harm may work for a range of emotions. It also offers types of general distractions and ways to replace Self Harm. Some examples of distractions include:

  • Dance

  • Clean

  • Exercise

  • Hug a loved one or stuffed animal

  • Play with a pet

  • Squeeze ice

  • Choose a random object, like a twist-tie, and try to list 30 different uses for it

  • Talk to someone that cares about you

  • Do something nice for someone else

  • Draw or color

  • Rip apart an old newspaper or magazine

These activities are considered distraction techniques. They can help move your thoughts away from Self Harm to focus on something less harmful. The document also lists some actions that substitute the act of Self Harm for something safer if the distractions do not work. When I talked with Hannah, she mentioned how crucial it is for anyone to distract themselves if they struggle with thoughts of Self Harm. She points out that anything can be a distraction, saying “[People] struggle with impulse control... starting small, like can you delay [Self Harm] by the length of time it takes you to eat a bag of chips?... There’s not many things you can do that I would tell you not to do if it means you’re not going to hurt yourself… do something to delay yourself and distract yourself.”

Self Harm is a difficult cycle to break. It can feel like you are alone in your struggle against crippling emotions and powerful impulses. But you are not alone; there are people and/or professionals who want to support you and guide you through breaking the cycle. Your feelings and thoughts that led to Self Harm are valid, and there are people who care about you and are rooting for your journey to healing.


If you or someone you know is engaging in Self Harm, you are not alone, and there are people who can help. There are ways to help slow and stop the act of Self Harm, and there are people to help you find the best way to redirect the actions. This was the final part of the Self Harm Series. If you are seeking help, take a look at Hannah’s profile at Telebehavioral Health.US or browse through the profiles of all of our licensed clinicians.

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