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Resisting Self-harm

Self Harming Behaviour can be described as any intentional action taken to cause some sort of bodily injury to self as a means of coping with difficult experiences or painful feelings. When these become unbearable and hard to express verbally, it may lead to some individuals engaging in self-harming behaviours, as a means of gaining control, punishing themselves, or escaping the memory or the experience. The following actions can be seen as self-harming; cutting, binge-eating and suicide. 
The follow steps can help you manage these urges.
  1. If there is an urge that you need to resist, start by setting an alarm for 15 minutes.
  2. Then rate your urge to engage in the behaviour from 1 (minimal urge) to 10 (highly intense urge). 
  3. Work through the RESISTT activities below to help manage your feelings. 
  4. At the end of 15 minutes, when your alarm goes off, rate your urge again. If you have decreased the urge, then congratulate yourself. If not, set your alarm again and keep practicing your skills in resisting harmful urges. If you end up acting on the urge anyway, at least you’ve shown yourself that you can use skills instead of acting on the urge for fifteen minutes.


Resisting behaviour infographic

  • Reframe
    • Try to think about a different perspective on your situation. What would you say to a friend in your situation?
    • Say to yourself “These feelings hurt but I can get through them” or “This pain won’t last forever”.
    • Think of others who aren’t coping as well as you, or who are in worse situations.
  • Engage mindfully in an activity
    • Turn your mind to something else.
    • Really engage with it, being present in the moment.
  • Something for someone else
    • Taking your mind off yourself and helping someone else can be very helpful.
    • Help someone out in a way that gives them something they really need, but is also safe to do.
  • Intense sensation 
    • You can use intense sensation to distract you from acting out harmful behaviour:
      • Take a hot or cold bath or shower
      • Chew on crushed ice or frozen fruit
      • Bite into a lemon
  • Shut it out
    • Avoid using this strategy often - it’s only for emergencies
    • In a very bad situation, if you can’t escape from where you are, and you can’t solve the problem right now, then picture yourself putting the problem away in a locked box or on a high shelf. When you have more time and help, you can tackle ways to solve the problem.
    • Imagine yourself in a safe place.
  • Think neutral thoughts 
    • Sing a favourite song or recite a favourite poem
    • Say a prayer or mantra to yourself
    • Say the name of objects you see around you e.g. bed, chair, window etc.
  • Take a break 
    • Practice something calming, such as meditation, or visualise yourself somewhere you find relaxing.
    • Get some time away or time out, so long as it’s appropriate.
    • Remember that taking a break is only a temporary solution.

Note: This information is best applied and thought through with the help of a mental health professional. Contact CCDU to set up an appointment.

Credit info: 

Adapted from Van Dijk, S. (2013). DBT made simple: A step-by-step guide to Dialectical Behavior Therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

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