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    Mental Health and Self-Injury

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    What Are the Symptoms of Self-Injury?

    The symptoms of self-injury include:

    • Frequent cuts and burns that cannot be explained
    • Self-punching or scratching
    • Needle sticking
    • Head banging
    • Eye pressing
    • Finger or arm biting
    • Pulling out one's hair
    • Picking at one's skin

    Warning Signs of Self-Injury

    Signs that an individual may be engaging in self-injury include:

    • Wearing of pants and long sleeves in warm weather.
    • The appearance of lighters, razors, or sharp objects that one would not expect among a person's belongings.
    • Low self-esteem.
    • Difficulty handling feelings.
    • Relationship problems.
    • Poor functioning at work, school, or home.

    How Is Self-Injury Diagnosed?

    If an individual shows signs of self-injury, a mental health professional with self-injury expertise should be consulted. That person will be able to make an evaluation and recommend a course of treatment. Self-injury can be a symptom of psychiatric illness including:

    How Is Self-Injury Treated?

    Treatment for self-injury may include:

    • Psychotherapy: Counseling can be used to help a person stop engaging in self-injury.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a group- and individually-based treatment program that helps people gain greater mastery over self-destructive impulses (such as self-injury), learn ways to better tolerate distress, and acquire new coping skills through techniques such as mindfulness.
    • Post-traumatic stress therapies: These may be helpful for self-injurers who have a history of abuse or incest.
    • Group therapy: Talking about your condition in a group setting to people who have similar problems may be helpful in decreasing the shame associated with self-harm, and in supporting healthy expression of emotions.
    • Family therapy: This type of therapy addresses any history of family stress related to the behavior and can help family members learn to communicate more directly and openly with each other.
    • Hypnosis and other self-relaxation techniques: These approaches are helpful in reducing the stress and tension that often precede incidents of self-injury.
    • Medications: Antidepressants. low-dose antipsychotics, or anti-anxiety medication may be used to reduce the initial impulsive response to stress.

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