How to recover from self-harm
Self-harm recovery can be a challenging process, but accessing support can help you to recover from self-harm.
Written by spunout
Last Updated: Dec-11-23
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Self-harm is a very personal thing, as is a recovery journey from self-harm. It is important to recognise that the definition of self-harm can vary a lot from person to person. Self-harm is often described as someone deliberately hurting or injuring themselves and is often considered to be a way of ‘releasing’ or ‘managing’ difficult feelings, painful memories, or overwhelming experiences. Some also associate it with feelings of control or use it to feel something when they are feeling numb. Self-harm is a complex behaviour and rarely the result of one thing. As self-harm is used by some people as a way to cope with stress or distress, this can make it challenging to stop self-harming, even when you want to.
How to recover from self-harm
While it can be difficult and take time, people can and do recover from self-harm. Recovering from self-harm is a process of learning, and healing that allows you to let go of self-harm behaviours by developing new ways of coping with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. People often describe the process of recovery as a journey. Every recovery journey is unique and personal to the individual. Recovering from self-harm comes with ups and downs, but you deserve to live a life free from self-harm.
Whether you’re considering starting your self-harm recovery journey, or you have been working on stopping self-harm for some time, the process can feel difficult and confusing at times. It can be challenging to let go of self-harm, but you deserve to live happily and healthily, and recovery is possible. If you want to start your self-harm recovery journey but don’t know where to start, or you feel stuck in your self-harm recovery journey, this article outlines information and resources that can help.
Find your reasons to stop self-harming
If you are thinking about recovering from self-harm, taking time to reflect on why you want to stop self-harming can be a good place to begin. While it might feel like an obvious question, the answers can be more complicated than you might expect. Some of the reasons people want to stop self-harming include:
- It’s putting their health at risk
- They don’t like having to hide what they’re doing
- They don’t like having physical scars
- It worries people in their life
- They feel judged by others
- Self-harm is becoming less effective for them
- They want to find other ways to cope with their situation/emotions
Self-harm recovery can be a challenging process at times. Recalling the reasons you want to stop self-harming can be helpful when you’re experiencing urges to self-harm. You may find it helpful to write down your reasons to stop self-harming.
Identify your self-harm triggers
Some people find there is a clear pattern of events that lead up to their self-harm. Others find it difficult to identify where their urges to self-harm come from. When you understand the factors that trigger an urge to self-harm, it can help you take steps to prevent self-harm from happening.
Take some time to reflect on the things that are happening before you feel like self-harming. This article provides information on some of the reasons people self-harm. If you find it difficult to know what makes you feel like self-harming, keeping a diary can help.
When you feel like self-harming:
- Write down the day
- What was happening at the time
- How you felt
- What thoughts you were having
- Looking back on the diary can help you spot patterns you couldn’t see before
Many people find that working with a therapist helps them to identify their self-harm triggers. Having someone who is trained to support you and can take the time to explore what’s been going on for you can make all the difference. A therapist can also help you develop strategies to move away from self-harm long-term.
Find coping techniques that work for you
There are a range of techniques that people find helpful when recovering from self-harm. Some of these techniques can help you to resist the urge to self-harm in the moment by distracting you. Other techniques provide alternative ways of expressing or processing your thoughts and feelings instead of using self-harm. Different techniques work for different people, so try out a few and see which ones you find most effective.
Here are some articles with things you can try:
Consider telling someone you trust about self-harm
For many people, opening up to someone they trust about their self-harm is one of the most important steps in their recovery journey. Whether you choose to talk to a friend, family member, healthcare professional, or other trusted adult like a teacher, sharing what you’ve been experiencing can be a pathway to understanding, care and support.
Opening up about your self-harm for the first time can be scary. You might not know how to explain what you’ve been going through or you might be worried about how the person will react. This article on how to tell someone you self-harm can help you prepare for the conversation.
Explore your self-harm support options
Recovering from self-harm is not something you have to do alone. There are a range of professional supports available in Ireland that can help you through the process of letting go of self-harm. These supports include face-to-face and online therapies, phone and text support lines, and group support. You can learn about the different supports available and how to access them in this article.
Be patient and kind to yourself while recovering from self-harm
Recovering from self-harm is a difficult process that comes with ups and downs. Times of stress and challenging life events can create setbacks but these setbacks don’t mean that you aren’t still making progress and doing well. When setbacks come, try to be patient and kind to yourself instead of blaming yourself or putting yourself down. Starting any recovery journey is a brave thing to do. Remember that you deserve to live happily and healthily.
Feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to someone?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.