How to Stop Self-Harm, Self-Injury Behaviors

You can stop self harm and self-injury behaviors. Learn how. Includes self-harm alternatives to deal with thoughts of self harm.

Self-injury behaviors are any behaviors that a person does with the purpose of hurting oneself. How to stop self-harm once you start though can be a big problem.

Some people may self-injure (also known as self-harm or self-mutilation) only once, while most will engage in self-harm behaviors multiple times.

Many people go on to years though because they find it so difficult to stop self-harm. (read about Self-Harm in Adults)

But it is possible to change self-harm behaviors – it is possible to stop self-injury. To stop self-mutilation, though, many things need to change, including:

  • The environment
  • A support system
  • Thought patterns

It's also important to know about self-harm alternatives and to gain some insight into why you self-harm or what triggers your self-injury behaviors. This self-injury test can help with that part.

Stop Self-Harm Behaviors by Changing the Environment

The environment is part of what causes, or allows for, self-harm and changing it can help stop self-injury. The first step is analyzing what role the environment has on self-injury behavior. For example:

  • Do you self-injure at a specific time of day?
  • Do you self-harm in a specific place?
  • Do you use certain tools to self-mutilate?
  • Do you have a ritual around your self-harm?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you change those aspects of your environment that contribute to your self-harm behaviors. (Causes of Self-Injury)

Changing the environment can be done once the urge to self-harm strikes, but it's easier to do before the urge comes.

For example, to help stop self-harm, you can:1

  • Keep yourself busy at the times of day you are likely to self-harm. Don't be alone during these times.
  • Stay away from any place where you typically self-injure.
  • Throw away any tools used to self-mutilate. (Ways People Self Harm) If you can't throw them away, make them as inaccessible as possible.
  • Stop yourself from committing self-harm rituals by adding or removing steps from them. Altering your rituals will likely make you uncomfortable and this discomfort can help stop self-harm.

Stop Self-Injury by Getting Support and Help

Many people battle to stop self-mutilation but lose this battle when fighting alone. It's only once they gain the support of others that they can stop self-harming behaviors. Self-injury help and support can come from professional sources such as a self-harm treatment center, program or psychotherapist, or it can come from friends, family members or others. The important thing is to have supportive people around you who you can turn to for help when you need it. If you feel the urge to self-harm, call one of these supports and have them talk or sit with you. This can be one of the easiest ways to stop self-mutilation.

Stop Self-Mutilation by Changing Your Thoughts

Changing the way you think is no easy task; that is for sure. However, changing some of the negative thoughts that lead to self-injury is possible and important. Just like with the environment, first it's important to analyze the thoughts surrounding self-harm in order to better understand and challenge them. Some questions to think about might be:

  • How accurate are my thoughts surrounding self-harm?
  • Are my negative thoughts reasonable?
  • What are my thoughts right before I self-harm?

Handling those thoughts can be tricky but there are techniques used to challenge, stop and alter negative thoughts of self-harm.

  • Challenge the negative thoughts – you'll likely find that many of them aren't true but only feel true at the time.
  • If you find yourself in a spiral of negative thoughts, think (or even shout) stop and change your thoughts to something else.
  • Reframe negative thoughts. For example, instead of thinking, "I'm so dumb for hurting myself." Think, "I did what I needed to do to take care of myself. I will do better next time."

These self-harm thought-altering techniques may take a lot of practice to work. A therapist can help you with more self-harm stopping techniques.

Self-Harm Alternatives

If you find yourself in a spiral wherein you feel you are about to self-harm, it's important to know self-harm alternatives that can take the place of self-injury. Self-mutilation alternatives can keep you physically safe even when overwhelmed with the urge to self-harm.

Self-injury alternatives include:2

  • Punching a pillow or a punching bag
  • Squeezing ice cubes; putting your face in a bowl of ice water
  • Eating chili or other spicy food
  • Taking a very cold shower
  • Drawing on your body instead of cutting it
  • Strenuous exercise

Of course, the best self-harm alternative is likely to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling.

article references

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). How to Stop Self-Harm, Self-Injury Behaviors, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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