It can be hard to understand why anyone would want to injure themselves. It’s upsetting to think about self harm such as by hitting or purposely cutting themselves. The idea sounds counter-intuitive. After all, don’t people want to protect themselves from harm, rather than cause it intentionally? Let’s talk about treating self-harm.
Yes, most of us want to feel good and protect ourselves from pain. But the truth is more complicated than that.
It requires looking past the self-harm and into deeper issues. These include seeking control, experiencing emotional numbness, severe anxiety, or even dealing with depression.
By taking a closer look, you can help someone get the support they need to heal. But what exactly is the role of therapy in treating self-harm?
First, let’s consider some factors that play into self-harm.
When the Pain Is Too Much
For many, the reason why they choose to cut or self-harm is because of deep emotional pain. They believe there is no other option in order for them to feel differently.
The act of cutting is like a release. It gives the person an outlet for their pain—a way of expressing their suffering without words. Moreover, self-harm acts as a distraction from all the negative feelings they have. Much like how people who struggle with substance abuse will note that alcohol or drugs serve as a diversion from their inner pain.
Feeling Something, Anything at All
Another issue to consider is that some people practice self-harm because they just want to feel something—anything! They are emotionally numb. They can’t feel pain, nor pleasure.
For them, self-injury is a way to feel something because when you self-harm, your attention becomes more focused and your heart rate increases. There is also the physical pain that occurs when a sharp object pierces the skin. When this happens, your body reacts by releasing chemicals to soothe that pain—a momentary feeling of pleasure, in a sense.
A Need for Control
Control also often plays an important role in self-harming behaviors. For many people, there is little that they can to do to effect control over their lives. The reasons for this may be both environmental and psychological. However, whatever it is, the effect is the same. And so, they decide to take an action over which they do have control.
Granted, the results of that action result in personal injury. However, the worry about physical injury is less important to the person as opposed to needing to have control over something. In this sense, they are controlling the experience of pain from self-injury.
Treating Self-Harm with Trauma Therapy
Therapy for self-harm needs to take into consideration these aforementioned factors. But how does someone get to the point where they decide that self-injury is acceptable?
One possible explanation lies in considering a person’s history, especially when they were young. Did they experience any traumatic events in their lives? Have they continued to experience trauma into adulthood? What other factors need to be taken into account, such as substance abuse? When finding answers to these questions a clearer, though perhaps more complicated, picture emerges as to the motivations for self-harm.
There are two powerful, natural therapeutic techniques available for treating self-harm. Both methods also have an extra bonus in that they give you control of the healing process.
One is Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This technique allows you to recall emotions and memories through the guidance of a therapist. This provides the opportunity to process these memories and feelings so that they do not become destructive. Another effective tool is Neurofeedback therapy. With this method, you and a therapist analyze your brain patterns and then help your brain to learn to respond differently when it comes to stress, anxiety, emotional pain, etc.
Treating self-harm is not a quick or easy process. It’s important to find and heal the underlying reason why you practice self-injury in the first place. However, you don’t have to take this journey alone. When you participate in therapy for self-harm you will have a professional walking step-by-step with you and guiding you through the healing process.
If you are struggling with self-harm, please feel free to contact me to find out more about how trauma therapy can help.