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Depression Health Center

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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):): proven to be one of the most effective types of therapy for treating those who self-injure by teaching skills for tolerating emotional distress and coping with interpersonal or other stressful experiences.
  • 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 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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