Understanding Self-Harm Urges


I have been self-harm free for just over seven years (go me!), and if I’m being honest I must admit that I do sometimes still have urges. They used to scare me a lot, but I’ve come to view them as important information.

Often when I experience self-harm urges, I am under a lot of pressure. Feelings of shame or intense anxiety, as well as exposure to PTSD triggers, can also cause them to surface. Thankfully I’ve been through mindfulness training that allows me to step back and look at why I am having both the feeling and the urge. I ask myself: What do you need right now?

Sometimes the answer is more sleep; other times it’s a distraction from intrusive thoughts, or a hug, or someone to talk to, or even a medication change. My care provider has me track how often my self-harm urges occur, and we can generally tell whether a medication is working by tallying how often I have those urges. They are like a weather barometer, or a warning alert system of sorts.

The most important thing I’ve learned is that the urge is just that: an impulse. It doesn’t need to be acted upon, just paid attention to. And that fact gives me a lot of comfort in what can be an otherwise deeply uncomfortable situation.

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