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How to Stop Self-Harm Urges

March 17, 2023

5 min.

Although self-harm can provide temporary relief from emotional pain, it can also lead to physical harm and long-term consequences. Learn how to manage triggers and urges around self-harm.

By: Charlie Health Editorial Team

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process


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Table of Contents

CW: This post discusses self-harm and other types of self-injury. If you or a loved one are struggling with self-harm or are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is the act of intentionally harming oneself, often through cutting, burning, or other forms of self-injury. It is a coping mechanism that individuals may use to manage emotional pain or distress. Self-harm can also be a way for individuals to express feelings that they aren’t able to articulate through words.

Self-harm is often associated with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and trauma. It can also be a sign of deeper emotional pain and unresolved issues.

The importance of asking for help when experiencing self-harm urges

Seeking help and support is crucial for individuals experiencing self-harm urges. It is important to reach out to trusted individuals and professionals who can help you manage your urges and address underlying issues.

It can be difficult to talk about self-harm, but it is important to remember that you are not alone.

Self-harm recovery is possible.

There are many resources available to help individuals who are experiencing self-harm urges or exhibiting self-harming behavior. These resources include therapists, support groups, and hotlines.

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Understanding self-harm urges

To manage self-harm urges, it is critical to understand the underlying reasons contributing to them. Self-harm urges can be triggered by a variety of factors, including stress, anxiety, and trauma flashbacks. Understanding these triggers can help individuals develop coping strategies to manage their urges.

The underlying reasons for self-harm may vary from person to person. For some, self-harm may provide a sense of control or serve as a way to release negative emotions. For others, it may be a way to cope with trauma or intense emotions or a way to feel something in the face of emotional numbness. 

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How to stop self-harm urges

Stopping self-harm urges can be a challenging process, but it is possible with the right strategies and support. Here are some suggestions for managing self-harm urges and developing healthy coping mechanisms:

Understand your triggers

Identifying the situations or emotions that trigger self-harm urges can help you develop strategies for avoiding or managing these triggers. Keep a journal to track your thoughts and feelings leading up to the urge to self-harm.

Create a safety plan

A safety plan is a set of written instructions for managing self-harm urges when they arise. The plan can include a list of people to call for support, healthy distractions, and alternative coping strategies.

Practice relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, can help reduce stress and anxiety and promote relaxation.

Seek professional help

Seeking help from a mental health professional such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or primary care physician can provide guidance and support for managing self-harm urges and addressing underlying mental health disorders.

Find healthy distractions

Engaging in activities that distract from self-harm urges, such as exercise, art, or music, can be a helpful strategy for managing urges.

Develop positive self-talk

Negative self-talk can contribute to self-harm urges. Developing positive self-talk can help promote self-compassion and self-esteem.

Build a support system

Building a support system of family, friends, or support groups can provide a sense of community and offer support and guidance during difficult times.

Managing self-harm urges is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient and kind to yourself, and seek help and support when needed. With the right strategies and support, it is possible to manage self-harm urges and achieve long-term recovery.

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The best types of therapy for self-harm

In addition to developing coping strategies, seeking professional help is an important step toward managing self-harm urges and addressing underlying mental health issues. There are various types of therapy and medication that can be effective in treating self-harm behavior. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It can help individuals identify triggers for self-harm urges and develop effective coping strategies.

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills

DBT skills is a form of therapy that focuses on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. It can help individuals learn to manage difficult emotions and develop healthy communication skills.

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT)

CFT is an approach that aims to help individuals develop greater self-compassion, alleviate shame and self-criticism, and cultivate positive emotions such as warmth and empathy. It integrates techniques from CBT, evolutionary psychology, and mindfulness, among other disciplines.


Medication can also be helpful for individuals who experience self-harm urges by helping to manage underlying mental health conditions. A psychiatrist or primary care physician can provide guidance and prescribe medication that can help manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. It is a brave and proactive step towards managing self-harm urges and achieving long-term recovery.

Seeking support for self-harm and mental health with Charlie Health

If you or a loved one are experiencing self-harm urges, it is important to seek help and support and address any underlying issues. Remember that you are not alone in this journey.

There are many resources available to help individuals who experience self-harm urges. With the right help and guidance, it is possible to manage self-harm urges and achieve long-term recovery.

Charlie Health’s virtual IOP combines individual therapy, groups, and family therapy to comprehensively and effectively treat people struggling with severe mental health issues. If you are struggling with the current level of care you’re receiving or need assistance as you return home from an inpatient setting, our Admissions Team is available 24/7 to discuss your needs and goals. Reach out today

Finally, if you or someone you know who self-harms are in imminent severe danger or are feeling as though you want to end your life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text the hotline by clicking this link.

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