Coping Skills For Self-Harm or Self-Injury

Self-injury or self-harm is an unhealthy but escalating coping behavior. Even though it's a common health problem, there are still inadequate provisions for it.

Related Article: 'I Want to Self-Harm': The Urges and The Facts

Inflicting pain towards yourself is a typical coping response. In silence you suffer because you're afraid of being misunderstood — that's valid. But, engaging in self-harm doesn't make you bizarre or 'abnormal.' It only means you process your pain in an unhealthy way.

Like drinking, smoking, or gambling, self-harm is a way to escape your emotions' intensity. With that, it's important to replace these coping responses with healthy things to do instead of self-harm. Here are healthy coping skills for self-harm:


One of the things to do instead of self-harm is to engage in the STOP technique. When you feel the urge to self-harm, these are the things you should immediately do:

Stop everything you're doing

Take your attention away from your urge to self-harm

Observe the things around you and what you're feeling

Practice slow-paced breathing


One of the coping skills for self-harm is to find other things to do instead of self-harm. Try to adopt healthy behaviors instead. Going for a brisk run, a burst 20-minute workout, and engaging in self-care habits like journaling are examples.

Washing your face with ice-cold water can be helpful too. In an experimental research, psychologists measured a person's state before and after dipping their hands in ice-cold water. They found out that the relief these people felt was equal to their relief after they self-harm.


Engaging in self-harm may be a way for you to communicate that you're in pain — to yourself and others. To find self-harm as a means for better communication shows your lack of proper communication skills.

Talking about your issues with an identified support system can improve communication. Support systems can be a reliable relative, family member, an online resource, or a therapist.

It gets hard to communicate when you can't even identify what's going on with you, and that is okay. Ask and self-reflect, it's an excellent coping skill. Why do you think you're harming yourself? Is it a form of emotional release? Does it help you feel in control? Do you think it helps others understand your pain?

Communication is a two-way street; It is the channel that leads to empathy. If you see yourself clearly, you can help others see you clearly.


Even in your strength, you can still feel vulnerable; That's part of being human. There's nothing wrong with you if you're feeling like everything's going wrong. What matters is how you respond to it.

Coping skills for self-harm can be learning to ask for help. One of the healthy things to do instead of self-harm is to acknowledge that you need help. You alone can do it because you're strong and resilient, but you shouldn't do it alone.

It's vital to identify the people you find trustworthy and reliable. The greatest drive to correct unhealthy coping behavior is to have a healthy support system. These people should be reliable, mature, and can call you out if you're relapsing.

If you need help, mental health help hotlines are accessible. Reach out and ask for assistance. These are the numbers:

I'm Alive Virtual Crisis Center - call 202-536-3200

The Trevor Lifeline- call 1-866-488-7386

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline- call 1-800-273-8255

The Crisis Text Line- text "HOME" to 741741

To Write Love on Her Arms - mental health resources in your area can be accessed here

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