By keeping a self-harm diary, you may have identified some negative thoughts which pop up into your head quite often. These are called Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs. Examples of ANTs can include ‘I am useless or rubbish’, ‘I am a bad mother’, ‘I am not good enough’, ‘It’s my fault.’

The Cycle of Self-harm can help us understand how the way we think about certain situations and events can affect how we feel and behave. And this can then trigger urges to self-harm.

Cycle of self-harm

Read a description of the Cycle of self-harm

The ANTs which upset you the most and cause the strongest emotional reaction are known as ‘hot thoughts’. These are often long-held beliefs and may well hold little truth in reality. It’s easy to assume that ANTs are ‘facts’ without actually stopping to question whether there’s a more realistic and balanced way of thinking.

Trying not to think these thoughts can just make your feelings worse – it’s much better to challenge them directly. This can then help to break the Cycle of self-harm. To do this, find evidence against your hot thoughts. You can use the ‘Challenging a hot thought sheet’ to help you.

Challenging a hot thought

Challenging a hot thought with example

When looking at evidence against the thought, consider the following:

Are you not seeing or ignoring the evidence against the thought?

What would a friend or someone you trust say about your thoughts?

What’s a more realistic and balanced way of thinking?