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    Self-Injury

    What Are the Types of Self-Injury?

    The most common types 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 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. The mental health professional 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?

    Common treatments for self-injury include:

    • Psychotherapy can be used to help a person stop engaging in self-injury.
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be used to help an individual learn to recognize and address triggering feelings in healthier ways.
    • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) may be used to teach the individual skills for tolerating emotional distress and coping with interpersonal or other stressful experiences.
    • Post-traumatic stress therapies may be helpful for self-injurers who have a history of abuse or incest.
    • Group therapy enables individuals to talk about their condition with others who have similar problems. This may be helpful in decreasing the shame associated with self-harm, and in supporting healthy expression of emotions.
    • Family therapy helps the individual addressany 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 relaxation techniques maybe helpful in reducing the stress and tension that often precede incidents of self-injury.
    • Medications such as antidepressants, low-dose antipsychotics, mood-stabilizers, or anti-anxiety medication may all be used to reduce the initial impulsive response to stress.

     

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