Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There's no one best way to treat self-injuring behavior, but the first step is to tell someone so you can get help. Treatment is based on your specific issues and any related mental health conditions you might have, such as depression.

Treating self-injury behavior can take time, hard work and your own desire to recover. Because self-injury can become a major part of your life and it's often accompanied by mental disorders, you may need treatment from a mental health professional experienced in self-injury issues.

There are several treatment options for self-injuring behavior.

Psychotherapy

Known as talk therapy or counseling, psychotherapy can help you identify and manage underlying issues that trigger self-injuring behavior. Therapy can also help you learn skills to better manage distress, help regulate your impulsiveness and other emotions, boost your self-image, better your relationships, and improve your problem-solving skills.

Several types of individual psychotherapy may be helpful, such as:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps you identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replace them with healthy, positive ones.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches behavioral skills to help you tolerate distress, manage or regulate your emotions, and improve your relationships with others.
  • Psychodynamic psychotherapy, which focuses on identifying past experiences, hidden memories or interpersonal issues at the root of your emotional difficulties through self-examination guided by a therapist.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies, which help you live in the present, appropriately perceive the thoughts and actions of those around you to reduce your anxiety and depression, and improve your general well-being.

In addition to individual therapy sessions, family therapy or group therapy also may be recommended.

Medications

There are no medications that specifically treat self-injuring behavior. However, your doctor may recommend treatment with antidepressants or other psychiatric medications to help treat depression, anxiety or other mental disorders commonly associated with self-injury. Treatment for these disorders may help you feel less compelled to hurt yourself.

Psychiatric hospitalization

If you injure yourself severely or repeatedly, your doctor may recommend that you be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care. Hospitalization, often short term, can provide a safe environment and more intensive treatment until you get through a crisis. Day treatment programs also may be an option.

Dec. 06, 2012

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