Do Self-Harm Prevention Games Work?

December 29, 2022 Kim Berkley

They say distraction can be a useful tool for self-injury recovery—but do self-harm prevention games actually help?

What Are Self-Harm Prevention Games?

There's no specific definition in the dictionary or other reference books, but I'd say anything fun or distracting that can help you overcome your self-injury urges can count as a self-harm prevention game.

Some games and apps go so far as to label themselves as such officially—I won't list any here because I haven't tried any of these personally, but they're easy to find with a quick Google search. Many are free; some are not. If you're interested in any of them, I'd urge you to try the free ones (or at least ones that have a free trial) first, rather than buying any outright, to see if they work for you before spending your hard-earned money.

Some games don't advertise any connection whatsoever to self-harm recovery but can still be useful distractions from your urges.

You can also make up your own games or gamify the recovery process in some way. I'll get into this more in a minute.

The main takeaway here is this: it's your recovery toolbox. You get to decide what you put in it—including what games, if any, to help prevent you from hurting yourself.

Using Self-Harm Prevention Games for Recovery

So how do self-harm prevention games fit into your recovery process? Probably the most obvious answer is that you can use games to distract yourself from acute self-harm cravings until they pass, or at least until they weaken to the extent that they are tolerable. For this use, mobile apps or games on handheld devices are best, as you can keep them with you even when you go out.

However, playing games outside of these times—before an urge even sets in—can also be useful. In my case, I love video games, so setting aside time each week to enjoy this passion keeps my spirits up even when life is stressful—perhaps, especially during those times. (It's also research, given the work I do, but that hasn't made it any less fun for me yet.)

In my experience, anything that makes you happier (that doesn't cause harm to you or others, of course) can only be beneficial for your mental and emotional health. The healthier you are, the better equipped you are to resist a relapse.

Turning Self-Harm Prevention Into a Game

As I mentioned, you can also turn the recovery process itself into a game. You might, for example, frame your recovery goals as missions or quests, perhaps even assigning experience points to certain milestones. One week clean, for instance, might grant you 100 points. You can then turn those points in (to yourself or someone else, if you have a friend or family member who can help keep you accountable) for rewards of your choosing. I know it might sound silly, but you'd be surprised at just how effective this tactic can be for some folks.

In my case, my rewards tend to consist mostly of books and—you guessed it—video games or extra time to spend enjoying both.

Self-Harm Prevention Games Support Other Coping Methods

Whatever you choose, I want to stress that self-harm prevention games should not be your sole coping method. Rather, it should act as support for the other tools in your toolbox.

For some people, games may be a bit too distracting—if you find that games are taking over your life, or if someone you trust tells you so, you may need to find other alternatives. For others, games may simply not be effective enough as a distraction from their urges. If either of these turns out to be true, it's okay. Not every recovery tool works for everybody. The good news is, you have other options—and lots of them.

Do you use any self-harm prevention games to avoid relapses? Leave your recommendations in the comments.

APA Reference
Kim Berkley (2022, December 29). Do Self-Harm Prevention Games Work?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 25 from

Author: Kim Berkley

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