Self-Harm Alternatives That Work
Here are some alternatives to self-harm (aka self-injury, self-mutilation). These tools are designed to relieve the desire to self-injure the next time you feel like self-harming.
What is causing your desire to self-injure? If you can get to the root of the problem, you can find alternative methods to absolve the pain and ways to avoid getting into a similar situation in the future. Go ahead, examine your emotions the next time you feel like self-injuring and try one of the following suggested alternatives to self-harm instead.
Do you feel Angry, Frustrated, Anxious?
- Violence is the key, as long as it is not directed at a living thing:
As an alternative to self-harm, you can rip up or punch a pillow, scream your lungs off, jump up and down, or cut up a soda bottle or some other miscellaneous, irrelevant item. Break something that you won't regret breaking, like sticks.
Mark on or tear up a picture of yourself. It's better than doing it to the real thing!
- Positivity can also be good. You could clean your room or house. Get some exercise! Dance, walk, jog, or run until you're exhausted. Play a sport or go swimming.
Do you feel Depressed, Down, Sad, generally Unhappy?
- Wash your problems away with a soothing bath is another good alternative to self-injury. A slow, relaxing dip in a warm tub filled with bath oil or bubbles is a good idea. Pamper yourself. You'll be surprised by what it can do for your mood. When you get out, try massaging body lotion into your arms and legs, or the places you'd like to cut.
- Relaxing is the best way to alleviate feelings of unhappiness. You can curl up in bed with a book and escape to an alternate reality or light some incense and just kick back listening to calming music. Call a friend and chat about nothing in particular. Eat yummy snacks and spend the evening watching TV or surfing the web.
Do you feel Unreal, Inhuman, Alone?
- Hurt yourself in a relatively harmless way, like holding ice, or rubbing ice on the spot you would normally cut or burn. Chew up a hot pepper or rub liniment under your nose. Snap your wrist with a rubber band. Another good alternative to self-harm, take a cold bath. Jump around, stomping your feet on the ground. Focus on something, like breathing or your heart beat. Notice the way your body feels and moves.
Do you need Focus?
- Working on something is a good way to focus your mental and physical energy. Do something on the computer, like playing Tetris writing a computer program, or creating a personal homepage. You can also pursue any other hobby you may have that is fulfilling and requires concentration.
- Attentively eat a raisin, or any other snack. Weigh it in your hand, feel it, look at the little details of it, including the texture. Describe it to yourself. How does it feel? How does it smell? Is it sweet or tart? You could also choose any object in the room and examine it. Then write a detailed description of it, including size, weight, texture, shape, color, uses, feel, etc. Include all of your senses. Choose a random object and try to list 30 different uses for it.
Pick a subject and research it on the web. This can get your mind going and give you a new project to work on.
Do you need to see Blood, pick Scabs, or see Scars?
- Draw on your wrist with a red felt-tip pen. Pour red food coloring over the area you want to cut. This self-injury alternative may be more effective if you warm it up first. Paint on yourself with red paint.
- Tattoo yourself using henna. The henna goes on as a paste. After you've left it on overnight, you can pick it off as you would a scab and it leaves an orange-red mark behind.
About the author: Vanessa, is a self-injurer and started the self-injury website, "Blood Red."
Last Updated: 26 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD