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Stopping Self Injury

What does it take to stop self injuring yourself? Iíve pondered this question many times for myself and those that I help on the support group. So I came up with a couple things that are needed to successfully stop self injuring.

 First there is the issues of wanting to stop or needing to stop. Some people want to stop self injuring themselves because they know itís unhealthy and they are ready to try healthy. Other people may not want to stop self injuring, but they know they need to. Perhaps because someone close to them has asked them to, or a hospital has asked or therapist. Or they know they are in a downward spiral and canít stop. So they know they need to stop self injuring if they want to get anywhere.

You need to be willing to work. That means youíll actively try various preventative or intervention methods that will aide you in stopping. And you need to do this full on and not half assing it. Somewhere along your journey you found that pain equals security so you turn to it when you feel unsafe, when you hurt and when you feel low. It will take work to first unlearn those premises and to learn something new.

The first work you need to try is learning alternatives to self injury. This site has about sixty five different things to do other than self injury. If for only a couple times you are able to use some of those alternatives, then you are on the right track. A good way to test your readiness or if you wonder if you can actually stop, first feel an urge come on and see if you can choose to do something else. After you know you can do that, you can work from there, building up the alternatives and building up not hurting yourself, but building up to something healthy.

Next, if you are able, you need to go see a psychiatrist and a counselor. Go see the psychiatrist to see if you have a diagnosable disorder and get on medication (if you need it) and see a counselor to find out what drove you to cutting in the first place. Cutting is not a disorder by itself, merely a coping mechanisms for something else. If you conquer the pain behind the cutting, you conquer cutting itself.

Thus, you also need to be able to face the reasons that drove you to cutting. This can be especially painful. I know because I had to face my abusive past and honestly that took a couple years for me. Iím pretty stubborn. Something drove you to cutting and to have pain equal safety. Itís time to find out what.

Finally there is untwisting your negative thoughts. Click on this link: Cognitive Distortions. Here you will learn about the negative thoughts that keep us imprisoned in our own minds. Not only does pain drive us, but a constant barrage of negative thoughts keeps up cutting up our bodies. For example, we use words like always, never, everything and nothing. I could say that I tried everything to get better and nothingís worked. Well, I havenít really tried everything because I havenít been on every single medication.  Thatís a negative thought. Instead, I should say, Well, Iíve tried a lot of treatments and they havenít worked, maybe I need to search for something I havenít tried. Now that is a rational, healthy statement. The other part of that sentence, and nothingís worked, is also irrational. I ought to say something more like, they havenít worked like I wanted them too, I wonder what is going on so that these treatments donít work. Or, they have worked a little, but not enough to get better. Do you see the differences between the two statements? A lot of people havenít understood their dark thoughts and how they can change them. Now you know you can. Youíll be hard pressed to want to cut yourself when you are thinking rationally.

 So those are just a few things:

1. Want or need to stop

2. Willing to work hard to get better

3. Able to use alternatives to cutting

4. Go see a psychiatrist and counselor

5. Face the reasons that drove you to cutting

6. Untwist your negative thinking

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely a list to get you started. If you want to know more about these things, come to my support group, Second Chances. While self injury brings us together, we deal more with the pain behind self injury and also untwisting negative thoughts. I run an active board where people are active in their healing. I wish you much luck in your healing and please email me if you want more information or join Second Chances. (link is above in the menu)

I'm including this checklist that Dr. Tracy Alderman, author of The Scarred soul: Understanding and Ending Self Inflicted Violence, as it discussing if you are ready to stop self harming.

It isn't necessary that you be able to answer all of the questions "yes," but the more of these things you can set up for yourself, the easier it will be to stop hurting yourself.

While it is not necessary that you meet all of these criteria before stopping SI, the more of these statements that are true for you before you decide to stop this behavior, the better.
- I have a solid emotional support system of friends, family, and/ or professionals that I can use if I feel like hurting myself.

There are at least two people in my life that I can call if I want to hurt myself.

- I feel at least somewhat comfortable talking about SIB with three different people.

- I have a list of at least ten things I can do instead of hurting myself.

- I have a place to go if I need to leave my house so as not to hurt myself.

- I feel confident that I could get rid of all the things that I might be likely to use to hurt myself.

∑ I have told at least two other people that I am going to stop hurting myself.

- I am willing to feel uncomfortable, scared, and frustrated.

- I feel confident that I can endure thinking about hurting myself without having to actually do so.

- I want to stop hurting myself.

[Alderman (1997) p. 132