Self Mutiliation Therapy

Self-mutilation, also known as self-injury and self-harm, is the act of intentionally harming one’s self without the desire or intent to die.  Self-mutilation includes, but is not limited to, biting, hair pulling, burning, breaking bones, amputation, and, the most common form, cutting.  Individuals who harm their self usually do it as a form of relief from their internal anguish.

The physical harm is a distraction from the pain they are feeling emotionally.

Unfortunately, self-mutilation comes with a stigma; many people do not understand self-mutilation and view those who suffer with it as different or wrong.  Those who self-mutilate often feel shame and embarrassment because of this stigma and create their injuries in places that can be hidden easily.

About 3 million people self-mutilate. Of this three million a majority are females.  Adolescents go through many changes and face a substantial amount of pressure; this pressure may lead to self-injurious behaviors.  Using punishment, embarrassment, and judgment are not an effective way to handle self-mutilation.   If you believe someone you know is suffering from self-mutilation, do not judge or criticize their behavior but encourage them to seek help for it.

Self-mutilation can be helped through therapy with individuals specially trained in self-injurious behaviors.  Helping the individual suffering from self-mutilation learn to accept the things in their life that they don’t have the power to control and learn effective ways to deal with the realities of their life are helpful in treating self-mutilation.

Therapy helps with self-mutilation by helping to identify the triggers that lead to the desire to harm on self.

Once triggers are identified the individual then learns positive behaviors to replace the harmful ones.  The individual will also work through the emotions tied to the triggers to help resolve the negative feelings that trigger self-mutilation.   Meditation is also effective when it comes to treating self-mutilation as it allows the individual to target the triggers to their self-injurious behaviors.  Journaling is also an effective tool used in the treatment of self-mutilation as it allows the individual another outlet for understanding triggers to self-harm, the consequences of self-mutilation, healthy ways to resolve these uncomfortable emotions, and build their motivation to use healthier means to alleviate these feelings.

Michelle Hauer

M.Ed., NCC, Counselor Intern