Setting Healthy Boundaries for Self-Harm Recovery

August 18, 2022 Kim Berkley

Opening up about self-injury can be incredibly cathartic and healing. But it's important, too, to set and maintain healthy boundaries during self-harm recovery and beyond.

Speaking Up Versus Setting Boundaries in Self-Harm Recovery

It's in the name of this blog—Speaking Up About Self-Harm is important. It can help us get the help we need and help inspire others to do the same. For me, it was a big weight off my shoulders to finally let go of a secret I'd kept wound up tight within me for so long.

But who you open up to and to what extent is up to you. It's your story; it belongs to you and no one else. Yes, especially if you're in therapy, it's important to talk things out. But you're doing that for you, for your benefit, not for your therapist's or anyone else. You don't owe anyone an explanation.

If and when you choose to speak up, and how you choose to do it are your choices to make. Make sure, whatever you choose, that the choice you're making is in your best interests—and that the boundaries you set serve your self-harm recovery goals.

How I Set Healthy Self-Harm Recovery Boundaries

So, where's the line? How do you find a balance between when to open up and when to set a self-harm recovery boundary?

Unfortunately, there's no magic formula I can give you that will yield an honest answer. Everyone's situation is different; one person's equilibrium is another's downward spiral. But I can tell you a bit about mine and offer up some inspiration that will hopefully help you find your balance.

Some boundaries I've set over the years include:

  • Allowing myself to change course if I find the research for a blog post topic triggering
  • Setting limits on when and for how long I spend responding to comments
  • Not publicly sharing sensitive personal information or information that belongs to someone else's story
  • Letting people know politely but firmly if they've asked a question I'm unwilling to answer
  • Justifying my decision not to answer a question only if I want to, not because it's asked or demanded of me
  • Checking in with myself now and again to see how I feel about what I'm sharing vs. what I'm not
  • Communicating specific things that are (and are not) helpful for my mental health

Your list may look similar or completely different; there are no one-size-fits-all answers here. If you're not sure where to draw a line in a given situation, I'd suggest asking yourself, "What will be most helpful for my recovery?"

For example, if your doctor asks you how you got your scars, it may be tempting to clam up. However, it is generally in your best interests to share that information—the more they know, the more help they can provide.

On the other hand, if a coworker or classmate asks the same question, the situation becomes less clear. Are they asking because they're concerned or just morbidly curious? What will they do with the information? In this scenario, it may be better to decline to answer—but again, it's ultimately up to you to judge this for yourself. Maybe you suspect they share the same scars as you, in which case, it might be helpful to work together toward recovery.

Self-Harm Recovery Boundaries Can Be Flexible

It's also important to keep in mind that your boundaries may change over time—and that's okay.

Back when I first began recovery, I didn't tell a soul. This wasn't necessarily the best decision, but it was the one I made. Eventually, I did open up to one or two people because I felt incredibly close to them and knew they would be understanding and caring. It wasn't until relatively recently that I decided to speak out publicly about my experiences here on the blog.

If I told my high school self that one day I'd willingly share my self-harm story with the world, I would have laughed in my own face. But that's life, I suppose. Nothing lasts forever, and often, that's for the best.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, August 18). Setting Healthy Boundaries for Self-Harm Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

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