How Games Can Distract You from Self-Harm Urges

December 1, 2022 Kim Berkley

While it shouldn't be the only tool in your recovery toolbox, distraction can play a vital role in healing from self-harm. One option is to use games to distract you from self-harm urges.

I've Used Games to Distract Myself from Self-Harm Urges

Over the years, I've made no secret of my love of video games. I think they can be powerful tools for healing, and in my own experience, video games can be excellent distractions from self-harm urges.

For one thing, games keep you busy on a physical level. Simply put, if you're gripping a video game controller with both hands, you have no hands left to pick up something with which to hurt yourself. Even if you don't use your hands for the game, the fact is all games involve some level of physical interaction. That interactivity is what makes them games—and what makes them so effectively distracting.

Games keep your mind occupied, too. For me, it's all about diving into a narrative and a world that immerses me. If I'm busy fighting bad guys and getting to know my virtual companions, then I'm focused on that and not on the things that hurt me and make me want to hurt myself—and that's a good thing. Sometimes you need to create mental and emotional distance between yourself and an issue before you can face it head-on and deal with it. Games give you a safe way to do that.

Games can also be an ideal way to get some socializing done without feeling the pressure of a situation solely focused on its social aspects. For example, you might clam up at parties but find it easy to slip into various (more talkative) personas alongside fellow Dungeons and Dragons players. Similarly, small talk might be torture, but you could talk for hours about your favorite title in the Final Fantasy franchise. Or, maybe you just find it easier to chat over a handful of poker cards.

Keep This in Mind When Using Games as a Distraction from Self-Harm

Note that while I find games an effective distraction from self-harm urges, you might not—and that's okay. No two people experience self-harm, or healing, in the same way. This is but one option in a sea of possibilities—other techniques might work better for you if this one does not.

Also, even if games do work for you as an effective distraction, know that you will need more than distractions to get (and stay) clean from self-harm. Do not rely solely on games to make everything all better all the time, or you'll run the risk of turning this potential solution into another problem to be solved. Distractions can be helpful and healthy in moderate amounts, but they become just the opposite when you start doing nothing but distract yourself and avoid facing your issues altogether.

In short—permit yourself to escape into games from time to time, but make sure you spend just as much time (or more) outside of those games as well.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, December 1). How Games Can Distract You from Self-Harm Urges, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Kim Berkley

Find Kim on Instagram, Facebook and her blog.

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