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Stop Cutting / Self-Injury

If you are cutting yourself please contact one of the following numbers immediately. If you feel like you have to cut yourself to have a release or an out for the pain you are experiencing, please call or click on one of the links to find out how you can end the pain. At the very least, write these numbers down and keep them in your wallet or purse with you at all times. These are not numbers to people who want to lecture you, these are numbers to people who actually care about you!

  • 1-800-DONTCUT [1-800-366-8288] ... Self Abuse Finally Ends

  • SAFE Alternatives
  • SAFE Alternatives (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) is a nationally recognized treatment approach, professional network and educational resource base, which is committed to helping you and others achieve an end to self-injurious behavior. The program was founded and is run at Linden Oaks Hospital in Naperville, Illinois by Karen Conterio and Wendy Lader, Ph.D.


    Self / Parent / Friend Resources

    Areas where parents & friends can go to for information and resources. How to spot the signs of depression and what you can do to help prevent your child or friend from cutting and self-injury.


  • Secret Shame website

  • Young People and Self Harm: An Information Resource

  • Self-Injury and Related Issues

  • Do you cut or do any self harm to yourself? If so, why do you cut or harm yourself? Do you want to stop hurting yourself? Do you know someone who is cutting? Did you use to cut and no longer need to? How did you stop? Did someone help you? Please tell us your story or testamony at:



    Cutting & Self-Injury Info

    Book: The Scarred Soul: Understanding and Ending Self-Inflicted Violence

    Tracy Alderman, Ph.D. 1997.

    If you're a teenager who self-mutilates, get help now. The problem is not likely to go away by itself. You have deep issues that need professional attention. Sometimes therapy alone will help, sometimes medication is prescribed, and sometimes hospitalization is necessary.

    Therapy usually involves identifying the problem, exploring the cause, and replacing the injuring behavior with positive behaviors.

    Ten exercises for when you feel the urge to cut:

    1. Call a friend.

    2. Do some deep breathing.

    3. Use some relaxation, Yoga, or meditation techniques.

    4. Use guided imagery to help you imagine yourself in a calmer, safer place.

    5. Distract yourself with music, TV, going for a walk, being with your pet.

    6. Write your feelings in a diary.

    7. Squeeze ice cubes in your hands until the urge to cut or hurt goes away.

    8. Take a hot bath, but don't scald yourself. This may temporarily relieve your temptation to cut.

    9. Instead of cutting your skin, draw red lines on it.

    10. Hit or scream into a pillow.

    Ways to help yourself right now

    (This material is excerpted from the secret shame SI info and support website)

    This section contains a variety of ways that you can stop yourself from making that cut or burn or bruise right now.

    How do I stop? And anyway, aren't some of these techniques just as "bad" as SI?

    There are several different flat-out- in-the-moment strategies typically suggested, such as doing anything that isn't SI and produces intense sensation: squeezing ice, taking a cold bath or hot or cold shower, biting into something strongly flavored (hot peppers, gingerroot, unpeeled lemon/lime/grapefruit), sex, etc. These strategies work because the intense emotions that provoke SI are transient; they come and go like waves, and if you can stay upright through one, you get some breathing room before the next (and you strengthen your muscles). The more waves you tolerate without falling over, the stronger you become.

    But, the question arises, aren't these things equivalent to punishing yourself by cutting or burning or hitting or whatever? The key difference is that they don't produce lasting results. If you squeeze a handful of ice until it melts or stick a couple of fingers into some ice cream for a few minutes, it'll hurt intensely but it won't leave scars, nothing you'll have to explain away later. You most likely won't feel guilty afterwards -- a little foolish, maybe, and kind of proud that you weathered a crisis without SI, but not guilty.

    This kind of distraction isn't intended to cure the roots of your self-injury; you can't run a marathon when you're too tired to cross the room. These techniques serve, rather, to help you get through an intense moment of badness without making things worse for yourself in the long run. They're training wheels, and they teach you that you can get through a crisis without hurting yourself. You will refine them, even devise more productive coping mechanisms, later, as the urge to self-injure lessens and loses the hold it has on your life. Use these interim methods to demonstrate to yourself that you can cope with distress without permanently injuring your body. Every time you do you score another point and you make SI that much less likely next time you're in crisis.

    Your first task when you've decided to stop is to break the cycle, to force yourself to try new coping mechanisms. And you do have to force yourself to do this; it doesn't just come. You can't theorize about new coping techniques until one day they're all in place and your life is changed. You have to work, to struggle, to make yourself do different things. When you pick up that knife or that lighter or get ready to hit that wall, you have to make a conscious decision to do something else. At first, the something else will be a gut- level primitive, maybe even punishing thing, and that's okay -- the important thing is that you made the decision, you chose to do something else. Even if you don't make that decision the next time, nothing can take away that moment of mastery, of having decided that you were not going to do it that time. If you choose to hurt yourself in the next crisis time, you will know that it is a choice, which implies the existence of alternative choices. It takes the helplessness out of the equation.

    So what do I do instead?

    You can increase the chances that a distraction/substitution will help calm the urge to self- injure by matching what you do to how you are feeling at the moment. First, take a few moments and look behind the urge. What are you feeling? Are you angry? Frustrated? Restless? Sad? Craving the feeling of SI? Depersonalized and unreal or numb? Unfocused? Next, match the activity to the feeling. A few examples:

    Another thing that helps sometimes is the fifteen-minute game. Tell yourself that if you still want to harm yourself in 15 minutes, you can. When the time is up, see if you can go another 15.

    How do I know if I'm ready to stop?

    Deciding to stop self-injury is a very personal decision. You may have to consider it for a long time before you decide that you're ready to commit to a life without scars and bruises. Don't be discouraged if you conclude the time isn't right for you to stop yet; you can still exert more control over your self- injury by choosing when and how much you harm yourself, by setting limits for your self- harm, and by taking responsibility for it. If you choose to do this, you should take care to remain safe when harming yourself: don't share cutting implements and know basic first aid for treating your injuries.

    Tracy Alderman suggests this useful checklist of things to ask yourself before you begin walking away from self- harm. It isn't necessary that you be able to answer all of the questions "yes," but the more of these things you can set up for yourself, the easier it will be to stop hurting yourself.

    While it is not necessary that you meet all of these criteria before stopping SIB, the more of these statements that are true for you before you decide to stop this behavior, the better.

    ©1998-2001 Deb Martinson


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