When you first think about whether or not to stop hurting yourself, it may seem like a simple decision. You most likely think that it would be good to stop such a self-damaging behavior. But you soon may have found that the decision to stop self-injuring is not quite as easy as it first seems. As I have mentioned in the FAQ, self-injury serves many functions, not all of which are negative. Self-injury is often used to help you cope better or some other important function. It is very hard to give up any long-standing behavior- habits are hard to break. Because of this, the decision to end self-injury is very complex.
This section of my website is designed to help you decide if you want to stop self-injuring and to give you ways to do so. It would be advisable to go through the information her at your own pace, not rushing yourself. Use what is here in the best way you can for yourself.
Why Should I Stop Hurting Myself?
Before you decide whether or not to stop hurting yourself there are several questions you need to ask yourself. The first one is, Why do I want to give up self-injury? This question may seem like it would have a simple answer, but it usually does not. You may be able to think of several reason why you want to stop hurting yourself, or you may not be able to identify any reasons. “Your answers to this question will affect whether you try to eliminate your SI behaviors and how successful you will be if and when you do.”
- To Escape Pressure from Other People
You may want to stop hurting yourself because loved ones are urging or demanding that you do so. A spouse, family member, friend, therapist, or partner may pressure you about your SI behaviors. Sometimes therapists and other mental health professionals may demand that self-injurious behaviors stop during treatment. And it is likely that your spouse, partner, or friends will ask you to not hurt yourself. “While these people may sincerely care about you, and they may truly believe that they are helping you by insisting that you control your self-injurious behavior, this pressure may not be especially helpful. Support is more helpful than demands, suggestions, or coaxing. You need to determine your actions on your own accord.” You need to decide to stop hurting yourself because you want to, and not because other people want you to. If you decide to stop hurting yourself because of pressure from others it will most likely end in failure.
- To Reduce Shame, Embarrassment, or Secrecy
You may want to stop self-injuring because of the shame or embarrassment you feel about hurting yourself. Shame is an important part of self-injury. To lessen your feelings of shame and embarrassment you try to keep your behavior secret by not telling anyone and hiding your scars and fresh injuries. Reducing this embarrassment may be a motive you have for ending your self-injurious behavior.
By stopping your self-injurious behavior you may be able to be more open and honest with friends and family- “not that you are dishonest when you omit information that could be linked to self-injury.” It just that hiding things from your loved ones makes it hard to feel close to them. It can be very difficult to tell another person that you self-injure, because of the possible reactions of disbelief, shock, or disgust. Ending self-injurous behavior would alleviate a lot of the shame and embarrassment that is connected with SI.
- Because Self-Injury Does Not Work Like It Used To
Another reason that some people use to decide that they want to stop hurting themselves is “that it does not provide a permanent solution to deal with problems or overwhelming feelings and is no longer even an effective short-term coping mechanism.” People will rarely give up a thought, feeling, or behavior that is pleasing or gratifying. But the gratification that may come with self-injury decreases with repetition. At first, SI is very effective at lessening negative feelings and emotions; which is probably the reason you did it in the first place. But after many episodes of SI it may become more and more difficult for SI to produce the same effect. Self-injury may not have the same effectiveness, so you may decide to stop hurting yourself because of this.
When you decide to stop hurting yourself because it doesn’t work like it used to, you have the risk of falling into another harmful method of coping that could be even more dangerous than self-injury. “It is not uncommon for [self-injurious behavior] to be exchanged for something with equal or greater potential harm, such as drugs or alcohol.” Alternate coping mechanisms such as excessive eating, shopping, sexual activity, reckless driving, gambling, and other similar behaviors all have “a great potential for harm.”
If your reason for discontinuing self-injurious behavior is its ineffectiveness, then it is “essential that you identify and try out as many possible positive alternative methods of coping as you can. You will probably be able to find a new method of coping that is nondetrimental and helpful to you.”
- To Improve Psychological and Physical Health
A more positive reason for deciding to end self-injurious behavior is a desire to be healthier, both physically and psychologically. At one time SI may have been a coping-mechanism and a way of survival for you, but it is no longer neccessary. At this time you have a “greater capacity for enduring difficult situations and taking care of yourself” than you did at an earlier time in your life. “Out of this added strength can emerge a desire to end [self-injury] in order to improve your well-being.”
Self-injury may help lessen feelings of depression, isolation, alienation, and frustration, but you probably have found that it can also increase the same negative feelings over time. “Over time, the shame, embarrassment, guilt, and physical consequences of [SI] take their toll.” You may decide to end this vicious cyle and promote healthier psychological feelings, as well as a healther physical existence. By ending your self-injurious behavior you are more likely to lessen your desire for other’s support, decrease your isolation and alienation, and feel better physically. “(Repeated damage to the body- no matter how small the trauma- can have serious physical and emotional consequences.)” Also you may gain a feeling of pride because you abstain from hurting yourself. Ending self-injury can “produce feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction and give you a healthier outlook on life.”
When Should I Stop?
Deciding when to stop hurting yourself is one of the more difficult things. You may already be taking steps to stop self-injurious behavior but it is more likely that you are wondering if it is the time to stop hurting yourself.
Change is a challenging and difficult thing that is often scary. Not many of us can face change with enthusiasm and without fear. For these reasons, you may feel insecure about your decision to stop hurting yourself. “But- if you decide to and you’re ready- you will be able to end this behavior.”
At this time you may not want to stop SI; it may still serve an important function in your life. It is essential that you be the one to decide when you are ready to stop hurting yourself. If you are not ready to give it up, then don’t. If you try to stop hurting yourself when you are not ready or don’t want to, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Wait until the time is right. If you think you can reduce the amount that you self-injure or the damage you inflict, but not end self-injury altogether, then start with that. You are the best person to judge if you are ready to stop hurting yourself. Other people can’t make that decision for you. Remember that whether you decide to end self-injury now or at a later time; it will be a difficult decision, and you will probably feel scared, unsure, anxious, and uncomfortable. And although you may look forward to changing this behavior, you are likely to question your ability to carry out your decision. “Each of these thoughts and feelings is normal and to be expected. Try not to let them influence your decision.”
Information from ‘Scarred Souls’ by Tracy Alderman.