About Self-Harm – Part 6 – Alternatives

Welcome to part 6 of our series about self-harm.  In last week’s post, we looked at control.  Today, we’re going to look at alternatives to self-harming.  Perhaps you can use these for friends or family members going through self-harming.  *Be advised, this post may contain potential triggers.*

What alternatives are there?

Many alternatives exist for self-harming.  Whether these will work or not depends on the person, as some work better for others and some don’t work at all.  Here are some of the techniques though.

  • Rub an ice cube on your skin instead of cutting it.  I’ve not yet tried this one, though the mental health nurse I see recommended gripping ice.  It produces the burn feeling that can inflict the pain without the damage.
  • Wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it gently against your skin.  This one seems more for anxiety than depression but it has been known to work.
  • Draw on the skin with a soft-tipped red pen in the place you might usually cut.  The idea is it gives you the visual of the red lines on your skin, almost as if you had cut it.
  • Go for a walk or run, ride a bike, dance like crazy or get some exercise. Exercise stimulates the brain to release endorphins, which are the body’s natural antidepressants.  Doctors recommend exercise as a natural treatment for depression.
  • Rip up some paper. Tearing something other than your skin could prove effective.
  • Write out your hurt, anger or pain using a pen and paper.  Getting your thoughts out of your head can be extremely beneficial.  It’s another form of releasing them and does less damage than cutting.
  • Scribble on paper using a red pen.  It combines the last two techniques.
  • Skip the cutting and go straight to bandaging.  It might trick your brain into thinking you’ve cut and removing the bandage should buy you enough time to delay the thought and shake it off.
No “one size fits all”  

These are a few of the techniques you could try as alternatives to self-harming. They might work for you or the person you’re trying to support but please bear in mind that they might not.  There is, unfortunately, no “one size fits all” approach.  With people being so unique, mental health conditions are also so diverse.  No singular treatment will work.

For me, I’ve tried the elastic band for my anxiety and it’s helped somewhat.  As for the others, writing is usually quite effective for me (as you might have gathered by my blogging about it).  It gets the thoughts out of my head for a while, which helps lessen the desire to self-harm.

They are only alternatives

I should stress at this point that these are only alternatives to self-harming, they are not cures.  They are a variety of techniques that may or may not have an effect.  Speaking from my own experience, there are days when I can use all the alternatives I like but they simply don’t give me that same experience that the actual self-harm does.  Sometimes it’s almost necessary for me to self-harm, as nothing else seems to work.  So please be aware when encouraging someone to switch to an alternative that it may not work all the time, even if it’s successful on occasion.

Next Week

Next week brings this series to a close, so please come back to hear my final thoughts on self-harming.  Also check out my journey, if you haven’t already!

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Become a PatronDisclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified.  This blog is based on my personal experiences only.  Always seek medical advice in the first instance.

Author: Alex Davies

Alex Davies is the creator and writer for Pushing Back the Shadows. Find out more about his journey here and connect with him on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

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