Self-harm relapse: Here’s what to do

Self-harm is the act of intentionally harming oneself. Self-harm can take many forms but generally involves using objects or materials to cause pain to the body or prevent it from healing. It isn’t uncommon to see this in younger adults or teenagers. Self-harming is most often used as a coping mechanism during times of emotional distress, but this coping mechanism does not help manage emotional pain in the long run. By using self-harm you are not working through the negative emotions you are experiencing, so they just come back stronger later. 

If you’re someone who used self-harm as a coping mechanism in the past, you may have stopped for a period of time and then relapsed. It’s important to know that relapsing doesn’t mean you’ve failed. If you’ve managed to stop self-harming once before, it’s entirely possible to do it again. To learn more about self-harm and how you can stop it if you or someone you know has relapsed, keep reading.

What can you do if you have a self-harm relapse?

  • Get in touch with a person you trust and you know cares for you — If you are going through a self-harm relapse, it’s a good idea to reach out to a person you know you can trust, who cares for your mental and physical health. It may be helpful to speak with them about your concerns or just spend some time with them.
  • Try using different outlets to express your strong emotions — If you know of an outlet that has worked for you in the past, you may benefit from using that again. If you haven’t yet found a way to express the emotions that led to your urge for self-harm, we recommend that you try new outlets. This might look like starting to paint, listening to or creating music, writing, making a collage, or something similar. It may be immensely helpful to try a creative form of expression to channel your emotions into something that won’t cause you bodily harm. If you find that you prefer less creative modes of expression, you may prefer outlets like sports or athletic activities like running or going to the gym.
  • Reach out to a licensed mental health expert for guidance — If you’ve recently relapsed back into self-harming, one way you can help yourself is by reaching out to a licensed mental health expert for guidance. Therapists can guide you through the recovery process and help you learn to recognize your own triggers that may have caused your relapse. They can also teach you the coping skills and mechanisms you need to help prevent future instances of self-harm.

How can you prevent relapsing in the future?

  • Identify your triggers
  • Learn some of the risk factors
  • Understand that you’ve successfully abstained before
  • Use the relapse as a learning tool
  • Try new relaxation methods
  • Try new distraction methods
  • Create a unique self-care routine
  • Make regular visits to see a therapist

Lightfully wants to help you understand what recovery from self-harm feels like

Our mission at Lightfully is to work with individuals to change their life compassionately. We strive to provide high-quality mental health care to various types of clients through a focused approach to process-based therapy. The framework of our clinic consists of evidence-based, clearly defined, data-driven and whole-person-centered care. Lightfully offers various layers of service to both adults and teens: residential treatment, Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP), Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), and Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP), also referred to as our Day Treatment Program. We regularly see clients who actively manage mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and trauma disorders. If you are someone who has struggled with self-harm as a coping mechanism before and you’ve recently relapsed, we’d like to help you. Our therapists are experienced in dealing with clients who struggle with poor coping mechanisms during emotional distress and can help them work toward improving their mental health. We believe that we can teach our clients the right kinds of coping mechanisms to teach them how to express the weight of their feelings in ways that don’t hurt them, so that in the long run they can have more fulfilling and enriching lives.

Our licensed, clinical experts see each client as a complex and layered human — not just a diagnosis. We value our clients as they are and hope to enrich their lives through treatment. Our vision for the future is an authentic and loving community where everyone can be seen, heard, and valued as they are. We believe in the light within each individual, and when that light is properly nurtured it can allow a person to shine brighter than ever before.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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