Preparing for your appointment

Your first appointment may be with your family doctor, another health care provider, a school nurse or a counselor. But because self-injury often requires specialized mental health care, you may be referred to a mental health provider for evaluation and treatment.

Be ready to provide accurate, thorough and honest information about your situation and your self-injuring behavior. You may want to take a family member or friend along, if possible, for support and to help you remember information.

What you can do

To help prepare for your appointment, make a list of:

  • Symptoms you've had, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
  • All medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements that you're taking, including the doses
  • Questions to ask to make the most of your time with your doctor

Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What treatments are available? Which do you recommend for me?
  • What side effects are possible with that treatment?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Are there medications that might help? Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
  • What should I do if I have an urge to self-injure between therapy sessions?
  • What else can I do to help myself?
  • How can I (or those around me) recognize that things may be getting worse?
  • Can you suggest resources that would help me learn more about my condition and its treatment?

Don't hesitate to ask any other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • When did you first begin harming yourself?
  • What methods do you use to harm yourself?
  • How often do you cut or injure yourself?
  • What feelings and thoughts do you have before, during and after self-injury?
  • What seems to trigger your self-injury?
  • What makes you feel better? What makes you feel worse?
  • Do you have social networks or relationships?
  • What emotional issues are you facing?
  • How do you feel about your future?
  • Have you had previous treatment for self-injury?
  • Do you have suicidal thoughts when you're feeling down?
  • Do you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use recreational drugs?
Dec. 09, 2015
References
  1. AskMayoExpert. Self-mutilation. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014. Accessed Oct. 8, 2015.
  2. Self-harm. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Self-harm. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  3. Self-injury. NAMI on Campus. http://www2.nami.org/content/navigationmenu/find_support/nami_on_campus1/mental_illness_fact_sheets/self-injury.pdf. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  4. Self-injury. National Alliance on Mental Illness. http://www.namigc.org/documents/selfinjury.pdf. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  5. Facts for families: Self-injury in adolescents. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Self_Injury_In_Adolescents_73.aspx. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  6. Fox KR, et al. Meta-analysis of the risk factors for nonsuicidal self-injury. Clinical Psychology Review. In press. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2015.09.002.
  7. Mental health and teens: Watch for danger signs. Healthychildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/Pages/Mental-Health-and-Teens-Watch-for-Danger-Signs.aspx. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  8. Washburn JJ, et al. Psychotherapeutic approaches to non-suicidal self-injury in adolescents. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health. 2012;6:14.
  9. Turner BJ, et al. Treating nonsuicidal self-injury: A systematic review of psychological and pharmacological interventions. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2014;59:576.
  10. Conditions for further study: Nonsuicidal self-injury. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  11. Russell KR, et al. Identifying the signs of self-harm in students. NASN School Nurse. http://nas.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/02/04/1942602X15574776.full.pdf. Accessed Oct. 9, 2015.
  12. Klonsky ED, et al. Nonsuicidal self-injury: What we know and what we need to know. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2014;59:565.
  13. Trepal HC, et al. A cross-sectional matched sample study of nonsuicidal self-injury among young adults: Support for interpersonal and intrapersonal factors, with implications for coping strategies. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health. 2015;9:36.
  14. Lewis SP, et al. Nonsuicidal self-injury among youth. The Journal of Pediatrics. 2015;166:526.
  15. Palmer BA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 21, 2015.
  16. Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 21, 2015.