From Self Harm To Self Care: How Therapy Can Help You Take Control Again
Sometimes, life’s strains and stressors can create an emotional rollercoaster. Without healthy coping mechanisms to manage emotional pain, some people turn to self-mutilation or other self-harm behaviors for release.
The terms “self-harm” and “self-injury” describe any form of harming one’s own body on purpose. In many cases, when people self-harm, it’s not part of a suicide attempt or with suicidal intent. Instead, individuals may harm themselves to find relief from difficult emotions.
Navigating emotional distress isn’t easy, and it’s normal to search for a release to process stressful situations. If you’re using self-mutilation to manage your emotions, you can push through, process, and cope with difficult feelings healthily. Here’s how therapy can help.
Why do people harm themselves?
Although the reasons for self-injurious behaviors vary, people often harm themselves when they experience emotional pain that they cannot psychologically cope with. They do not have healthier coping mechanisms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), self-mutilation usually occurs among adolescents and young adults, though it can affect any age group.
Individuals self-injure for a wide range of reasons, including:
- To deal with difficult emotions, such as loneliness, sadness, numbness, and anger
- To express feelings that can’t be put into words
- To feel in control or relieve guilt
- To distance themselves from acute emotional pain
- To feel physical pain instead of emotional numbness
Sometimes, acts of self-harm may include less apparent forms of self-injury. Instead of cutting with razors or sharp objects, some people may engage in substance abuse, have unsafe sex, or deliberately put themselves in danger.
How can therapy treat self-harm?
Talking to a therapist about self-mutilation can feel overwhelming, especially if you’ve spent years hiding scars from your friends and family members. While the physical injury may bring temporary relief to intense emotions, it’s important to remember that damage poses a serious risk to your health. Help is available—and the first step to ending the cycle of self-harm is to seek professional help.
Working with a qualified therapist can help you learn healthy coping skills, manage emotional pain, and navigate stressful situations without turning to self-injury. Whether you’re dealing with intrusive thoughts or emotional pain, counseling for deliberate self-harm can be a valuable resource to help you stay healthy.
Below are some ways you might incorporate counseling techniques into your recovery process.
- Journaling can help you identify your thoughts and emotions without automatically judging yourself for them or allowing them to consume your thoughts.
- Cognitive restructuring exercises can help you challenge irrational thoughts (e.g., “I’m not good enough”) with evidence to the contrary.
- Mood tracking exercises can help you work toward mental health goals, track your progress over time, and stay motivated while you heal.
What type of therapy is best for self-mutilation?
Unlike other mental health conditions, there’s no defined treatment for self-mutilation that has been studied extensively with clinical results. Above all else, treatment for nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) aims to treat the causes of self-injury, such as borderline personality disorder, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and emotional problems.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of psychotherapy, is often a successful therapy for treating nonsuicidal self-injury, suicidal thoughts, and many mental illnesses. It can be practiced in group therapy, individual therapy sessions, or both. CBT helps individuals reframe their thought patterns to replace unhealthy thought patterns with healthier, more positive ones.
Psychodynamic therapy also holds promise for helping people to stop engaging in self-harm behaviors. In general, psychodynamic therapy assists people in better understanding their emotions and understanding their role in their psychological pain and their behaviors.
Psychodynamic therapy or CBT can be used as the primary treatment for deliberate self-harm, or they can be combined with other tools to help you throughout the healing process. Everyone’s mental health journey is unique, and you’ll be able to collaborate with your therapist to create a personalized treatment plan based on your preferences and requirements.
Compassionate, Data-Driven Mental Health Care in Charlotte
Ultimately, counseling can help you develop healthy coping mechanisms to practice in daily life. Keep in mind that practice doesn’t end when therapy does. Instead, you’re gradually incorporating more of what you’ve gained through therapy into your life, so you can use healthy coping mechanisms to manage negative feelings and end the cycle of self-harm.
To find a therapist, reach out to a mental health professional through the Therapy Group of Charlotte. We know that in-person or online therapy can feel overwhelming—and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Whether you’re navigating life after a traumatic event, living with a mental disorder, or dealing with emotional pain, one of our compassionate therapists will help you regain strength and start feeling better.