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. To those who do not and don’t feel the truth! Yes I can say that! I have been trapped In this world for 19 years! The very first time I cut when I was 16 years old ! I am now about to hit 35! You see I was raped when I was 16! It took my soul! I continued to cut over the years just to release some kind of pain. I always slit the same arm all down it! I have many scars and guess what happened... exactly 1 month ago I became manic depressant and I sliced my arm to the point of needing 8 staples in my arm! I cut myself a total of 15 times on the same arm! I also have cut my legs as well over the years! I had to finally say this is enough! I just can’t do this every single day! I loved watching the blood flow out of my arm but it hurt me and my 2 kids! I woke up in a psych hospital completely blacked out! I have now been a solid month without a single cut! Please find your purpose in life and LIVE! No more blood shed!!

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