Understanding & Coping with Self-Injurious Behaviours

Self-injurious behaviours can be devastating to the sufferer and disturbing for friends and loved ones. Common self-injurious behaviours include cutting, head-banging and hand-biting, as well as excessive self-rubbing and scratching. These behaviours can be manifested for a number of reasons, ranging from biochemical causes to social environmental factors.

Self-Injurious Behaviours

Wendy E.M. LeBlanc, M.A.P's, L.Psych


Common Causes of Self-Injurious Behaviours:

  • This is the one thing in my life I can control
  • I am lonely
  • It keeps me from feeling numb and dead inside
  • It is better than thinking of all the bad memories I have
  • I deserve to be punished
  • It is exactly the kind of thing that would upset my parents
  • It makes me feel things I can't put into words

If you cut/self-injure to calm and soothe yourself:

  • Pet or cuddle with a dog or cat
  • Wrap yourself in a warm blanket, use a heating pad
  • Take a bath or hot shower
  • Massage your neck, hands, and feet
  • Listen to calming (or happy) music

If you cut/self-injure because you feel disconnected and numb:

  • Call a friend (you don’t have to talk about self-harm)
  • Hold an ice cube in the crook of your arm or leg/rub it on your skin
  • Chew something with a very strong taste, like chili peppers, peppermint, or a grapefruit peel.
  • Take a cold shower or bath
  • Make plans, schedule time with friends and family

If you cut/self-injure to release tension or vent anger:

  • Exercise vigorously—run, dance, jump rope, or hit a punching bag
  • Squeeze a stress ball or squish Play-Doh or clay
  • Rip something up (sheets of paper, a magazine)
  • Make some noise (play an instrument, bang on pots and pans, stomp your feet)
  • Punch a mattress/cushion or scream into your pillow

Substitutes for the cutting sensation

  • Use a red felt tip pen to mark where you might usually cut
  • Use red food coloring to replace the sight of blood
  • Draw creatively on your skin, something fun or meaningful
  • Rub ice across your skin where you might usually cut
  • Put rubber bands on wrists, arms, or legs and snap them instead of cutting or hitting

If you cut/self-injure to express pain and intense emotions:

  • Express your feelings in a journal, or through creative writing
  • Compose a poem or song to say what you feel
  • Write down any negative feelings and then rip the paper up
  • Listen to music that expresses what you’re feeling
  • Paint, draw, or scribble on a big piece of paper with red ink or paint

To learn more about self-injurious behaviours and how best to cope with them, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.


353 St. George Street Suite 200

Moncton, NB E1C 1W8

Service Area

Moncton and surrounding areas in the Maritimes

Contact Information


Private and Confidential

Professional Affiliations

College of Psychologists of New Brunswick

Clinic Hours

Each of our psychologists creates their own schedule. Some psychologists are available on evenings and weekends, while others are only available during the day.

Our office manager, Darlene Pitre-Jomphe, is in the office from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays she is in the office from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

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