Archive for the ‘Self-harm’ Category

negative thoughts and behavioursOften we post lots of information about ‘positive’ signs and skills. After all part of recovery is learning to focus on the positive. But what about the negative, how do you recognise negative coping skills. How do you know that the behaviours you are doing are actually harming you or not promoting recovery. We live inside our heads so much that often negative process are so natural as breathing we think this is normal. Continuing negative behaviours can act as triggers for relapse or harming ourselves even more.

As part of a bigger post, I found a great list of negative behaviours and recognising them as such. Put together by Blake Flannery it is an excellent starting point. You can add your own unique negative behaviours to the list. The full article by Blake ‘List of Coping Skills for Anger, Anxiety and Depression’, also gives a lot of positive skills and how they actually help us by adopting them.

Being aware is the starting point for changing any behaviour.

Negative Coping Skills

Here’s a list of things that will cost you in the long run as coping strategies. These do more harm than good in most cases and can make life more stressful.


  1. Procrastination
  2. Abusing drugs or alcohol
  3. Wasting time on unimportant tasks
  4. Shopping (online or malls)

Interpersonal (With Others)

  1. Blaming
  2. Isolating/withdrawing
  3. Mean or hostile joking
  4. Gossiping
  5. Criticizing others
  6. Manipulating others
  7. Refusing help from others
  8. Lying to others
  9. Sabotaging plans
  10. Being late to appointments
  11. Provoking violence from others
  12. Enabling others to take advantage of you

Cognitive (of the Mind)

  1. Denying any problem
  2. Stubbornness/inflexibility
  3. All or nothing/black or white thinking
  4. Catastrophizing
  5. Overgeneralizing

Tension Releasers

  1. Tantrums
  2. Throwing things at people
  3. Hitting people
  4. Yelling at others
  5. Destroying property
  6. Speeding or driving recklessly


  1. Suicide
  2. Self harm
  3. Developing illnesses


  1. Making fun of yourself
  2. Self-sabotaging behaviors
  3. Blaming yourself


  1. Spending too much
  2. Gambling
  3. Eating/drinking too much
  4. Setting dangerous fires
  5. Continually crying

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C0uldn’t word it better. Most sufferers of an eating disorder self-harm at some stage. Some just flirt with the behaviour, others become entrenched. The self-harm can start before the ED develops, it can start during or be part of the recovery process.

Thank you to PsychCentral: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/06/12/11-helpful-tips-from-the-parent-of-a-self-harmer/


Caring for self-harmersHere are 11 tips that I discovered along the way to help any parent going through a similar situation.

  1. Do not ask why. When someone self-harms, they don’t have words to describe their pain. The self-harm is an outward display of their inner emotions. Asking why will not give you the explanation you are looking for. Your child doesn’t have the answer, and this line of questioning will only make him or her feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Instead, ask if there is anything you can do to help him or her feel better.
  2. Talk to your child about first aid. By inquiring if bandages, antibiotic ointment, or any other type of first aid is needed you are starting a dialogue. This may open up an opportunity for your child to show you more of their injuries or tell you something about their pain. It is important that your child knows that they should wash their wounds with soap and water and continue to keep them clean to avoid an infection. Explain the signs of an infection and the importance of seeking medical attention if needed.
  3. Ask if he or she is safe or can keep him- or herself safe. If your child has hurt him- or herself, then they are in emotional as well as physical pain. Self-harm usually isn’t a suicide attempt, but suicidal thoughts can accompany the self-harm. There is a strong link between previous self-harm and suicide. Do not ignore it. Speak to a professional if suicidal thoughts are involved.
  4. Validate your child’s feelings. Validation is one of the most important elements to learn before parenting any child. You are acknowledging your child’s emotions, not diminishing them. You don’t have to agree with his or her feelings, you just have to be supportive. Everyone deserves to be accepted without judgment. Validation helps your child feel heard, acknowledged, and understood.
  5. Find a counselor, therapist, or psychiatrist. Your child needs to talk to an experienced and competent professional. Do not be afraid to interview them and make sure they are the right fit. Obtain referrals from physicians, friends, or family members.As the caregiver, you need to talk to someone just as much as your child does. Take time to nurture yourself.
  6. Do not punish your child for self-injurious behavior. Self-harm is not an act of rebellion or attention-seeking behavior. Your child is hurting him- or herself because he or she is in a great deal of emotional pain. Don’t make their pain worse. Love them, nurture them, and listen to them.
  7. Remove obvious items that can be used for self-injury. If your child has to go to the effort of finding something to self-harm, rather than grabbing a knife from the kitchen drawer, it may give him or her time to think about what he or she is doing and change his or her mind. Lock sharp items away, take them with you or hide them, but don’t leave them out for easy access.
  8. Research self-harm and healthy coping skills. This is a time when you have a lot of questions. There are many helpful sites about self-injury on the Internet.Learn about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). This type of therapy combines standard psychotherapy with skills training. The patients learn healthy coping skills to combat self-harm triggers. DBT works best if the parent also learns about the therapeutic method, so he or she can be supportive and encouraging.
  9. Do not minimize self-harm. When a child self-harms on a regular basis, a parent can get into the habit of thinking that this behavior is “not so bad.” This is dangerous; every incident of self-harm is significant and should not be minimized. Remember there are links between self-injury and suicide.
  10. Be honest, not disappointed. Your child doesn’t want to be in emotional pain or self-harm. Part of the healing process will involve setbacks. Be prepared for these. Never tell your child that you are disappointed in him or her for self-harming. This will only create a barrier in your relationship. Remember to validate. You don’t have to agree, you just have to listen.Honesty can create a bond between you and your child. If you don’t know what to say or do, be truthful and tell your child that you don’t know how to help him or her. They are likely to accept this, because he or she doesn’t know what to do, either.
  11. Don’t say “but.” But is an invalidating word. For example, if you say “I’m proud of you for telling me that you cut yourself, but next time talk to me before this happens,” the only thing your child will hear is that they weren’t good enough. Instead say, “I’m proud of you for telling me that you cut yourself. How do you feel now?” Have a dialogue and then later ask, “What can we do to help you talk to me if you are having these feelings or urges again?” Your child doesn’t listen to everything you say; make sure everything you say is worth hearing.

Overcoming the addictive hold self-harm has on your child will take time, patience, and effort. Offer your help and guidance. Be the parent your child needs during this difficult time in his or her life.


APA Reference
Larsen, T. (2015). 11 Helpful Tips from the Parent of a Self-Harmer. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 14, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/06/12/11-helpful-tips-from-the-parent-of-a-self-harmer/

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Lost count of how many gratitude lists I have done on the site. Sometimes you really need them and then you roll along for a while in what other people take for granted as normal life. I NEED this today. My thoughts are scattered and not focussing very well and much has to be done. Sophie is great, Will is not. And that’s about all I will say at this stage, apart from the heart felt cry of ‘how do you keep an 18 year old safe’ until he is able to engage with therapy.

1.  My son is alive

2. Autumn is the most beautiful season

3. I loaded the dishwasher and fed the cats (actually no, my partner fed the cats, damn)

4. There are people around who really care at a grass root level

5.  We had a friend come to the house and turn off the stove, because we had to bolt to find Will

6.  God has a definite plan for Will – he is not letting him slip away

7.  Never never fear police involvement. They go above and beyond the call of duty.

8. I am functioning (enough) and got dressed today.

9.  God is good. So very good.

My son is alive.

gratitude list

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self-sabotage and eating disordersTo those who don’t have a mental health illness, the idea of actually sabotaging your own recovery is just illogical. I mean, really, why would you do that.

There is very little that is logical in the thought pattern of someone with a mental health illness. Because of all the other thought patterns, learned behaviours, voices etc, logic and rationality don’t always come through. Even with my depression, my self-sabotage is reflected in my not taking care of myself, not getting the right foods, enough sleep, enough time-out, etc. I know what benefits me, but don’t do it. And I know what the outcome will be.

Similarly those with eating disorders are ‘great’ at self-sabotage because of the controlling voice and the
underlying ‘I don’t deserve to recover or live’ belief.

It’s not an outright decision to sabotage but more a subtle, sub-conscience view of your recovery. The eating disorder voice uses this mental ability to the max. Like it LOVES it. Sneaky, manipulative, subtle, hidden messages – the ED will sabotage your recovery in any way it can.

  • Don’t follow your meal plan
  • Do Over-exercise
  • Do Harm yourself
  • Don’t take your medication or listen to medical advice
  • Make life choices that remove your ability to move forward

Tackling this voice and meeting it head-on with force and saying ‘no’ is very difficult and takes practice to learn. Don’t say it isn’t possible or you can’t ever imagine a stage where you could do that. Believe me, you can learn. The ED seems like it has a complete hold on you, but it doesn’t. A bit like a bully: continually challenging, pushing away and learning to use your new behaviours and toolbox, will crush the bully.

My son, with his anxiety disorder, actually deprived himself of sleep and created a ‘perfect storm’ environment to live in. A custom designed hell. Why? Because he felt he didn’t deserve to have a nice life, didn’t deserve to recover from his trauma.

ED sufferers move away from home too early, underneath knowing they will probably not be able to sustain the level of self-care to not let the ED get a stronghold again. They don’t put into place procedures and routines to help them live.

Instead of making good, informed decisions, you put your head in the sand and let life take you wherever. It might mean spending all your money so you have no rent money left, meaning you are forced to move home. Maybe you really wanted that and couldn’t ask for help, or maybe you felt that you didn’t deserve the freedom of life away from home.

My daughter used to allow life situations to over-run her and then deliberately fall into anorexia habits. She could then blame the situation and take all responsibility off herself and self-sabotage her recovery. She would knock herself down basically.

Not wanting to be held responsible for your recovery and to make the every moment decision to recover is a good reason for self-sabotage.

As long as you can blame someone or something else, or ignore deliberately the behaviours/routines you need to recover, you can sabotage your recovery for years.

I am NOT saying at all (please hear this) that you have full control over the ED. I know the voice controls you and I know that you don’t have a choice in how you react to life and yourself. BUT in later recovery, you have learnt what is needed both mentally and physically to sustain recovery. You have learnt that the ED is separate to you. Yes it’s exhausting and difficult to continually choose to recover, and I get that it is easier many times to just let the ED have it’s way and pick up the pieces later. The self-sabotage at this point of recovery is when you keep choosing to ignore your recovery program, when you choose to let the ED ‘win’ more often. I watched and talked to many girls (including Sophie) and you can tell, as she did, when she was allowing the ED to re-assert itself due to just exhaustion or it was a deliberate fall back into it because she didn’t follow her recovery program.


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Supporting someone who harms

  • Don’t ignore or dismiss your concerns
  • Do educate yourself about self-harm
  • Do manage your own emotions about self-harm
  • Don’t panic or jump to conclusions
  • Don’t assume you know the reason
  • Do ask if suicide is a risk. Asking about suicide does not put ideas in their head.
  • Do encourage them to seek professional help
  • Do recognise self-harm maybe their only coping technique and giving it up is frightening
  • Don’t make ultimatums or demands
  • Do try to have open communication with them
  • Do respect them, don’t label or judge them
  • Do seek help for yourself if you feel it is too much for you to handle. Also you may need to tell someone safe about your friend or family member for their safety.

Self-help distraction

  • Use a red pen to mark yourself instead of cutting
  • Hit a punching bag
  • Exercise (but not obsessively)
  • Make lots of loud noise
  • Write negative feelings down and then destroy it
  • Scribble on paper in coloured textas
  • Write in a journal
  • Talk to a friend (about anything)
  • Do art/dance/music to vent emotions
  • Find self-help websites or articles
  • Hold ice or ping yourself with rubber bands. Whilst still harming they aren’t as destructive, and still give you a coping mechanism

Original from Headspace with my additions

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Just like eating disorders, self-harm has just as many myths and stigmas surrounding it. Far too many misconceptions are out there, creating further confusion and isolation for those who means of coping include self-harm. These myths only places more burdens those who harm and their family. It discourages them from finding help and realising it is nothing to be ashamed of.

Self-harm is about coping. It’s a form of communication that says “I am in pain but cannot talk about it”. It’s about having a way to ease the turmoil on the inside. Self-harm doesn’t last forever either. Therapy means learning healthy ways of facing and expressing feelings.

Myth 1

Self-harm is an attempt at suicide.
Fact: Untrue. Most self-harmers are doing this to cope, it is simply a mechanism. Self-harm is an attempt to hurt, control, have power or cleanse, not to kill. They are more at risk however, and anyone who self-harms should seek professional help.

Myth 2

It’s just attention seeking.
Fact: Most harmers hide to do the actual behaviour and they mostly harm parts of the body that remain hidden. Very few outsiders will ever know someone self-harms unless told.

Myth 3

It’s an emo/goth/fashion/trend thing.
Fact: There is no correlation between any youth culture that has self-harm as more prevalent. Dress or culture groups will not give preclude or produce self-harming. Nor is it trendy. The mess and pain associated with self-harm is not something trend followers would put up with.

Myth 4

If you self-harm, you have a mental illness or personality disorder.
Fact: Self-harm is a behaviour not an illness or disorder. It is not a medical disease nor a diagnosis. It is the outcome not the source. It is more to do with psychological or emotional problems. Many self-harmers do not meet the criteria for mental illness or disorders.

Myth 5

If you start self-harm, you’ll always do it.
Fact: Most stop self-harming when they are able and ready. It’s about dealing with the emotions and life circumstances and learning how to cope/live in healthy ways.

Myth 6

Self-harm is just cutting.
Fact: Scratching, scrubbing, burning, hair-pulling, starving, over-eating, drinking, risk-taking, smoking, drug taking, over-work are all examples of self-harm. Anything that causes harm to the body or mind.

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The only way I can get the voice to stop is to cut. Then there is instant quiet. I can sleep.

Chilling isn’t it. That’s my son. That was last night.

And the cuts are so neat – same size, same distance apart. A reflection maybe of my son’s ordered and exact mind.

His voice is a bit more personal on some levels. It is a male voice. It is authoritative. It is not Will’s own voice.

His voice start quiet when he is enjoying himself. Telling him to stop. Just that. Stop. When Will tries to ignore the voice, it gets louder and louder. Until it is finally screaming. STOP.STOP.STOP. Over and over and over. When Will obeys the voice, the voice drops to nothing instantly. It has achieved it’s purpose. Will is sitting there – miserable, lonely, shut down.

He hates counselling but it is the only way to (hopefully) express what is inside in a caring and supportive environment. It’s the only way to learn new skills for emotional expression the results in healthy ways to let out emotions and live. Self-harm, whilst it provides short-term relief, is not healthy nor does it promote any kind of healthy mental attitude. It brings its own shame, guilt and isolation. So you keep putting more and more layers ontop of the original pain.

The medication is not working or at least appears to not be working. The psychiatrist is reluctant to try a fourth one just yet. Give him time to see if this one might work. He nows has two safe zones at school to go to if the urge to seriously harm himself is too strong. I am not enough, he needs more people around him on a daily basis.

I am not even sure if he is going to get through this year at school. Just getting through a day is tough at the moment. School started 10 days ago, he has had 3 days off already including weekend breaks. The are things he can do, but it is getting him to accept and acknowledge he needs to make decisions. He is not at that point, head still in the sand. Saying yes I can get there but I have no idea how, I just will.

It’s a day at a time, most days not good. I am learning more about voices, pain, self-harm. Just knowing how to support Will is tricky. At this stage it’s mostly push away, so you end up hovering around the edges. And hoping, just quietly hoping/praying.

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