Resisting the Urge to Cut Yourself

In my blog, "How to Quit Cutting for Good", I talked about 3 alternative coping strategies for self-harm: Talk it out, wake up to your actual feelings, and seek God. 

Once you decide you're committed to stop cutting, you will find out what a struggle it is to go sober and stay free from this horrible addiction.  Even as you are beginning to recover, you still will feel the cravings to cut again. You are going to need to be prepared to know how to deal with those powerful urges. Here are some practical ideas to help you or someone you know be set free.

Stop feeding the cutting monster - wait it out

Every urge you have to cut will go away in time, but only if you don't act on it. Each time you act on your urge to cut, you're making that urge stronger kind of like feeding a monster. Each time you feed the addiction, the more likely you will feel the urge to cut the next time you feel the same emotional pressure. The more you stand against the urge, without giving in, the more your urges will decrease.

Distract yourself from the desire to cut

One of the best ways to stop cutting is by distracting yourself with someone or something else. This will allow the moment to pass when you're feeling the deep cravings to cut and get your mind off of it. It's impossible for your mind to think about two things at the exact same time. Here are some ideas on how to do this.

  1. Call a friend or meet them in person. Talk about what's comfortable for you. The key is to keep talking.
  2. Take a shower. This will help invigorate your body so physically it too is distracted. (Make sure there are no razors in the shower).
  3. Exercise Walk, run, ride your bike, climb, swim, do yoga, etc. While you are exercising, your mind is more likely to think about something other than cutting.
  4. Play with a pet. Take your dog for a walk.
  5. Watch television or a non-violent, healthy movie.
  6. Make yourself a sandwich, drink a glass of water or a cup of hot chocolate.
  7. Listen to positive music. It will definitely help to change your mood.
  8. Write in your journal. Learn to express your feelings through writing.
  9. Create art or some kind of creative hobby.
  10. Volunteer somewhere like a nursing home, or a hospital. In fact, getting a job will help as well. Some people cut out of sheer boredom.

Natalia put it this way: I still fight the urges, but the way I deal with it is by writing in my journal or talking to my best friend and boyfriend who are currently helping me through this.

The point is: Find something else to do. If none of these ideas are possible at the moment, try finding a substitute for the cutting sensation.

  1. Rub an ice cube on your skin, instead of cutting.
  2. Wear a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you feel the urge.
  3. Draw on your skin with a red marker or food coloring in the place you would normally cut.
  4. Put temporary tattoos in the places you have the urge to cut.

Angel said rubber bands have helped her. I've learned that snapping them against your wrist takes away a little bit of the amount to want to cut yourself. Ali said the key for her was she needed something physical to feel like she was still alive, that she was OK. So, I mark a little pink heart on my calendar for every day I don't cut...and believe it or not it helps. Help is possible and stopping is realistic.

Tell your story

The biggest problem with a cutting addiction is it forces you to focus on how YOU are feeling.  Stop thinking about yourself so much and focus on other cutters who need your help.  The more you can reach out to others, encouraging them to find better ways to express their feelings, the better you will be able to resist your own urges. Courtney said: I'm proud to be able to tell people my story of overcoming my self-destructive behavior. Every day is a struggle, but I always choose to find hope in the darkest situations and fight the urge.

Think About your Future without Cutting and Self-Harm

You have an incredible life ahead of you, filled with many, many years of potential joy and time with people you love, and who love you as well. Think about what you'd like your life to look like in 5, 10, 15 years, and start taking steps to move forward in that direction.

Abby is 25, and she sees hope in her future: If I don't stop cutting, then a lot of the things I want aren't going to work out the way I dream they will.

Cyndal said: I thought about when I have children, and they see the cuts and scars on my arms, and they ask me, 'Mommy what are those booboos on your arms?' That really made me think, 'WOW, what would I tell my children?' And it made me cry for a really long time"

I want to encourage you to be strong like Amanda. She said: It's a challenge every day, but I am fighting to not cut, because I know that my life can be really awesome, and cutting does not fit into that picture. When you feel your emotions building up, remember you now have alternatives to self-harm. Get self-help by talking to someone who cares.

Be strong. There is tremendous hope for you!

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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297 comments on “Resisting the Urge to Cut Yourself”

  1. In the past year I’ve had those thought again, those thoughts I thought I left behind years ago. I’ve noticed they come to me when I feel overwhelmed with a situation I don’t know how to deal with. I have a family now and they are honestly my strength. I don’t want to feel like a left them being a coward. It’s been hard to not think it but I think writing here is going to release some of those urges. Life isn’t easy and I’ve learned that the hard way. Reading all the comments here and feeling everyone’s pain has helped me understand that I need to reevaluate my thoughts and treasure the years I’ve gone without them.

    1. Hi Maria,
      I also thought I left those thoughts and urges way behind in my teen years, but recently my husband of 7 years, monogamous partner of 13, asked me for an open marriage because monogamy isn't for him anymore. Just like that every urge and negative self opinion came flooding back into me like a dam that was finally released. You're not alone. Strength and love to you, to us both <3

  2. Hi I am a cutter. I've cut so much on my arm.n now my boss says am not allowed 2 do my job as it's working with children. I really enjoy this job so I really need 2 stop can any help me please x

    1. Hey, I was kind of in your shoes I will ago. I'm not a teacher, I'm still in school. I used to cut and to me, it was my way of escape from everything, but, eventually I realized I couldn't keep doing this, and I needed to stop. I needed to find a reason, so I texted one of my most trusted friends telling them what I had been doing. She said she cared for me so much I couldn't understand. I felt the same way, and every time I wanted to cut, or had an urge to cut, I reminded myself of those text messages. Find something or someone in your life to keep pushing you forward. You don't need to to tell them you've cut, but having people around that love you or distracting yourself with things you love, is my way of coping with things. If you feel no one loves you, your 100% wrong. I'm not going to say your my best friend in the whole wide world, but I'm not going to say your nothing either. Even though I've never met you, I still care for you. Your living and breathing the same air as me, your alive at the very same moment as me and your trying to push forward just like so many others going through the same thing in this world. People have no idea what kind of impact they make with others. I ADORE all my teachers and would be incredibly sad if they left. You are an example to shape young minds, even if kids talk during lessons or there just downright annoying, it's not because of you, they still care for you even though it may not seem like it. People care for you, even small acquaintances you have with others. You matter and you should keep telling yourself this. You make a huge impact and I want you to stay on this earth forever.
      I hope this helped, it may not be the best advise but this is how I slowly learned to stop. I really hope you stop and are able to get back to your job.
      We all love you, trust me!

    2. I also work with children and I think of it as a privilege! Children are the innocents of us! I have cut for 19 years and I have hid behind every shadow! Remember life is given to us and we must earn it! Don’t shed your blood no more because all of us have some kind of pain and I give You my support

  3. i haven't started to cut but I really want to
    life is hell and i want to die. someone help me . I can't tell my dad, he doesn't understand

    1. Hi Charley,
      Just wanted to say I don't know you, but I'm glad you're here. I'm not going to deny or gloss over the feelings of hurt and despair you have--being depressed sucks, no way around it. But please know there are people in this with you, and this crappy fight isn't one you have to do alone.

    2. Hi Charley,
      I felt the same way at one point in my life until I realized that expressing myself and showing my feelings was the best way to fight that urge. I stop thinking about what people thought about me because the reality was that I needed to help and accepting you need it is the first step. I encourage you to talk to someone about how you feel. I hope you feel better ❤️

  4. It kind of does suck, I have a 2 year old and I started cutting before him and after I had him, it's so hard, I get so depressed at night and I cry (not the heartbroken upset sad cry) but the cry of you can't take it anymore and I have the biggest urge to cut and have the worst thoughts and it's so hard to control it but every time I want to I have to think about how my son would need me, it just sucks I have no one to talk to, my mom said if I do it then she'll put me in a mental home, and she doesn't understand what's it's like, no one does

  5. I just barely cut my self. Not my arms, but my thighs. I have a lot in common with this girl, I just hide it a lot better. I have a boyfriend and he is the main reason I'm not dead, I've tried to kill myself a few times, but my boyfriend helped me not to. I suffer with major depression and cutting myself. I can't control it. I've been seeing a counselor for three years, and it only helps a little bit. But I just saw this website, and I already feel as if this information will help a lot. I had my mom hide everything sharp and dangerous, but I just had a meltdown and hid in our family car. I got curious and started looking around the car, and found a pocket knife. I cut myself, then came to my senses and gave the knife to my mom. But, I just can't control my emotions. It's like there are two parts of myself, evil and my true self but the evil is taking over. It is horrible! Just needed to tell someone.

    1. Olivia, We are proud of you for reaching out for help. It takes a lot of courage to overcome the issue of cutting. We have a partner organization that can help you. They have recovery coaches available that you can talk to via text email or phone. For information how to reach them go to: We believe in you and you are not alone. You can overcome!

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