I’ve self harmed on and off for almost three years. Most of the time it’s out of sheer apathy, other times it’s out of complete anger towards myself or the others around me. Sometimes when I’m angry I imagine myself doing horrible graphic things to myself and it’s oddly calming when I do.
Basically, I’m wondering if these are ‘normal’ reasons to want to self harm and I want to know better ways to avoid these thoughts so I don’t end up doing it.
Despite self-injury being common, it is not normal. It is a maladaptive response to painful emotions. In other words, you engage in unhealthy behavior to temporarily decrease your unpleasant emotions and that is because you are unaware of healthy alternatives. If you had better coping skills, you would probably use them. It’s good that you instinctively know that it’s wrong and are asking for help to change it.
Some people engage in self-injury to punish themselves for a mistake. They believe that they deserve to suffer for having made an error. We all make mistakes and it’s inappropriate to believe that you deserve more suffering because of a mistake.
You can’t always avoid unpleasant emotions, but you can choose a different response to them. Those skills can be learned in counseling. You can read self-help books for new ideas but the most efficient way to correct this problem, is with counseling. Psychotherapists are experts in teaching these skills to their clients. If you want the quickest and easiest way to change your behavior, consult an expert.
There are many other things to do when you have distressing feelings instead of self-injury, including, but not limited to journaling, exercising, taking a walk, hitting a punching bag, playing the guitar, listening to music, hiking, talking to an empathetic friend, playing with your cat or dog, drawing, or meditation. Those activity ideas are not intended as cures but they will help to reduce your stress and help to avoid engaging in self-injury.
If you’re open minded, willing to try new things and are agreeable to counseling, you can correct this problem. I wish you the best of luck. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle