Establishing Healthy Replacements: How To Make Scars Go Away

Updated January 25, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Feeling the effects of painful, frightening, or dangerous situations long after they’ve happened can make you feel unsafe, upset, and frustrated. These emotional scars are not as obvious to most as physical scarring and can be more difficult to address and find help for. 

Emotional scarring can be treated with the appropriate help and support. Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Emotional Scars?

Living With Emotional Scars?

Emotional scars, otherwise called emotional trauma, are the lasting effects of experiences that cause us to feel utterly helpless or unsafe. These experiences may be a single event, such as an assault or accident, or may be a continuous occurrence such as abuse, illness, bullying, or discrimination. 

Experiencing traumas like this can lead to a wide array of uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms including hypervigilance (feeling the need to be “on the lookout” at all times), avoidant behavior (such as removing oneself from social situations or not attending certain events or locations), skittishness, or a constant need to control any given situation. In some cases, the trauma may lead to the development of a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety or physical symptoms such as migraines, nausea, or insomnia.

It's important to note that traumas do not need to be physical in nature to cause lasting scars. Long-term verbal abuse or the witnessing of dangerous events like natural disasters or extreme violence can be just as impactful as physical assault or injury.

Can You Really Make Scars Go Away?

Emotional scarring can be helped with the appropriate professional and personal support. With the help of a qualified mental health expert, you can learn to redirect your thoughts and actions and address their underlying causes appropriately, lessening your symptoms over time and allowing you to return to normal functioning in your daily life.

That being said, it is an unfortunate truth that emotional scarring tends to lead to lifelong effects. According to reports, those who experience emotional scarring are likely to relapse into dysregulated behaviors after treatment, especially if they remain in a traumatic environment, though this does not mean treatment is without purpose. Even post-relapse, those who have emotional scars can use therapeutic coping techniques to more easily overcome their symptoms and more quickly return to their lives.

Healthy Replacements For Unhealthy Habits

One way to help yourself overcome the effects of emotional scarring is to replace the unhealthy habits you may have developed as a result of your trauma with healthy habits. The goal of this is to address the practical impacts of your emotional scars so that you can exist in a comfortable and stable enough environment and mental state to seek help for the scars themselves.

A method for doing this that you can try for yourself or with your therapist is the system defined by Harvard Health as the three R’s: reminder, routine, and reward.

  1. Reminder. Learn what your triggers are for your unhealthy habits. For example, perhaps stress from work causes you to pick at your skin. Listen to your body and find ways to be aware of your behavior so that you can identify when you get the urge to participate in your habit.

  2. Routine. When you do feel the urge to complete your habit, replace it with an alternative activity that won’t hurt you or others and will instead let you release your tension in a constructive way. Using the example above, every time you feel the need to pick your skin, you may instead pull tape from a desk surface or use a specifically-designed picking stone.

  3. Reward. Take the time to identify the rewards of replacing your unhealthy habits to encourage your brain to move in a positive direction. Keeping to our example, you may take time to take care of your skin with a special mask or treatment or note how clear your skin looks without as many picking scars. 

It’s important that you also work on addressing the scars that trigger these habits so that you can heal from them in the long term. Consider the following methods for doing so.

  • Journaling. Journaling can help you get the thoughts in your head out onto paper so that you can begin to explore them in more detail and review patterns of thinking. It’s also a great way to de-stress and settle your mind.

  • Talking with loved ones. Having honest, open conversations with loved ones you can trust can help you explore your emotions and how certain events in your life have impacted you. This may also help you find closure for emotional scars tied to loved ones. 

  • Talking to a therapist. Therapists are trained to offer treatment that gets to the root of emotional scarring and helps your brain work through it fully and you can effectively move past your trauma without pushing it down or trying to ignore it.

Online Therapy Can Help Fade The Scars

Identifying the triggers for your unhealthy habits and their underlying causes can be difficult, which is why creating a plan to heal your emotional scars with a mental health professional might be extremely helpful. 

Living With Emotional Scars?

Online therapy is an excellent option for those affected by emotional scars. You can see your therapist quickly, from the comfort of your own home, rather than having to go through the stressful process of visiting an office for scheduled appointments. Through programs like BetterHelp, you can also be matched with a specialist experienced in supporting people with scars like yours, which can help you feel more confident in your recovery.

Though many people are skeptical of online therapy as a practice, plenty of research has shown that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy for treating a wide range of mental health conditions including the effects of trauma and emotional scarring. One study found that emotionally-focused online therapy brought about a drastic reduction in trauma symptoms over the course of five weeks. 


Emotional scarring can feel overwhelming, especially when it is compounded by unhealthy habits that affect our daily lives. With the help of a professional, you can overcome emotional scarring and reinstate healthy habits into your life. 

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