In addition to professional treatment, here are some important self-care tips:
- Stick to your treatment plan. Keep therapy appointments and take prescribed medications as directed.
- Recognize the situations or feelings that might trigger your desire to self-injure. Make a plan for other ways to soothe or distract yourself or to get support, so you're ready the next time you feel the urge to self-injure.
- Ask for help. Keep your doctor or mental health care provider's phone number handy, and tell him or her about all incidents related to self-injury. Appoint a trusted family member or friend as the person you'll immediately contact if you have an urge to self-injure or if self-injuring behavior recurs.
- Take care of yourself. Learn how to include physical activity and relaxation exercises as a regular part of your daily routine. Eat healthy. Ask your doctor for advice if you have sleep problems, which can significantly affect your behavior.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. They affect your ability to make good decisions and can put you at risk of self-injury.
- Take appropriate care of your wounds if you injure yourself or seek medical treatment if needed. Call a relative or friend for help and support. Don't share instruments used for self-injury — that raises the risk of infectious disease.
If you or a loved one needs help in coping, consider the tips below. If there's a focus on thoughts of suicide, take action and get help immediately.
Coping tips if you self-injure include:
- Connect with others who can support you so you don't feel alone. For example, reach out to a family member or friend, contact a support group, or get in touch with your doctor.
- Avoid websites that support or glamorize self-injury. Instead, seek out sites that support your recovery efforts.
- Learn to express your emotions in positive ways. For example, to help balance your emotions and improve your sense of well-being, become more physically active, practice relaxation techniques, or participate in dance, art or music
Coping tips if your loved one self-injures include:
- Get information. Learning more about self-injury can help you understand why it occurs and help you develop a compassionate but firm approach to helping your loved one stop this harmful behavior. Know the strategies and relapse prevention plan your loved one has developed with the therapist so you can encourage it.
- Try not to judge or criticize. Criticism, yelling, threats or accusations may increase the risk of self-injuring behavior. Offer support, praise efforts to express emotions in healthy ways and try to spend positive time together.
- Let your loved one know you care no matter what. Remind the person that he or she is not alone and that you're available to talk. Recognize that you may not change the behavior, but you can help the person find resources, identify coping strategies and offer support during treatment.
- Support the treatment plan. Encourage your loved one to take prescribed medication and stress the importance of keeping therapy appointments. Remove or limit access to matches, knives, razor blades or other items that may be used for self-injury.
- Share coping strategy ideas. Your loved one may benefit from hearing strategies you use when feeling distressed. You can also serve as a role model by using appropriate coping strategies.
- Find support. Consider talking to people who've gone through what you're going through. Share your own experiences with trusted family members or friends. Ask your friend or loved one's doctor or therapist if there are local support groups for parents, family members or friends of people who self-injure.
- Take care of yourself, too. Take some time to do the things you enjoy doing, and get adequate rest and physical activity.
There is no sure way to prevent your loved one's self-injuring behavior. But reducing the risk of self-injury includes strategies that involve both individuals and communities — for example, parents, schools, medical professionals, supervisors, co-workers and coaches.
- Identify people most at risk and offer help. For instance, those at risk can be taught resilience and healthy coping skills that they can then draw on during periods of distress.
- Encourage expansion of social networks. Many people who self-injure feel lonely and disconnected. Forming connections to people who don't self-injure can improve relationship and communication skills.
- Raise awareness. Adults, especially those who work with children, should be educated about the warning signs of self-injury and what to do when they suspect it. Documentaries, multimedia-based educational programs and group discussions are helpful strategies.
- Promote programs that encourage peers to seek help. Peers tend to be loyal to friends even when they know a friend is in crisis. Programs that encourage youths to reach out to adults may chip away at social norms that support secrecy.
- Offer education about media influence. News media, music and other highly visible outlets that feature self-injury may nudge vulnerable children and young adults to experiment. Teaching children critical thinking skills about the influences around them might reduce the harmful impact.