Self-harm, also known as self-injury, means hurting yourself on purpose. While cutting (using a sharp object to pierce your skin) is the most common form of self-harm many other forms exist, including burning, scratching or hitting body parts. Self-harm often first manifests itself in adolescence or young adulthood and is typically used as a way to cope with emotional pain. Individuals who have experienced trauma, neglect or abuse are particularly susceptible to self-harming behaviors. Self-harm can be a passing phase, but it is sometimes a symptom of a more serious psychiatric problem, like anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, so it is important to take it seriously. Whether you, or a child in your care, has recently started hurting yourself or you’ve been doing it for a while, there is help available! Reach out to one of TherapyDen’s self-harm experts today.

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When a person becomes overwhelmed and distressed, they may look to various avenues of relief to reduce their uncomfortable feelings, including self-harm. Self harming behaviors can be seen as a coping skill that a person acquires when they do not have other tools in their toolbox to navigate the challenges they may face. When working to address self harm, the main focus of treatment is finding new coping skills that encourage healing and help keep a person safe when facing distress.

— Kristina Altomari, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Boston, MA

Self-injury is one of the most misunderstood of all coping strategies. Self-injury is most often an attempt to both regulate and tolerate intolerable feelings. It also communicates psychological pain and suffering through the more recognizable and understandable physical pain. Both self-injury and eating disorders are common among LGBTQ folx, especially those who identify under the trans umbrella. Learning to understand what problem the self-injury is attempting to solve is key to healing.

— Beth Holzhauer, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Evanston, IL

Whether through cutting, hitting, or using a "good" behavior to the point of hurting ones self, many people will try to soothe distressing emotions or thoughts by hurting themself, usually beginning in their teen years. In session, we will talk through the purpose of the behavior, what it "gives", and find safer alternatives to achieve the same goals, while also working through the pain which led to the self-harm in the first place.

— Elizabeth Bolton, Licensed Professional Counselor in Cypress, TX

I help clients identify why they self-harm, triggers to self-harm, alternatives to self-harm, and successful strategies in overcoming self-harm.

— Christian Hill, Licensed Professional Counselor in Frisco, TX

Previously, I worked at a mental health intensive outpatient facility for adolescents, and young adults experiencing self-harming urges and suicidal ideation. I have experience with safety planning and exploring coping skills for redirection.

— Krystina Cespedes, Student Therapist in Chicago, IL

Self-harm is not a mental illness, but a behavior that indicates a need for better coping skills. Several illnesses are associated with it, including borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorders, anxiety or posttraumatic distress disorder. Self-harm isn’t the same as attempting suicide. However, it is a symptom of emotional pain that should be taken seriously.

— Allyse Teltser, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Roswell, GA

I understand that there is a difference between self-harm and suicidal behavior and have experience helping people learn adaptive coping strategies.

— Debbie Duquette, Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Madison, AL

I have experience working with clients with a wide range of self harm experiences. I will not judge your experience and offer a safe and healing space to process self harm behaviors.

— Mallory Striesfeld - Healing Pathways of Houston, Licensed Professional Counselor in Houston, TX

Intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy through Behavioral Tech

— Kate Horsch, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Building skills and supports to cope with emotional pain, suffering, and numbness; increasing positive meaningful life experiences

— Hannah Brooks, Social Worker in New York, NY

Often those who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) or have a history of abuse, also suffer from self-harm. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is indicated to help relieve these behaviors which stem from finding a way to cope any way one can. While self-harm starts as a way to manage difficult emotions and/or experiences, shame and self-loathing often accompany the behaviors. Our DBT program at HHC&W and training in trauma-informed care is most helpful for this concern.

— Stacy Walker, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Sarasota, FL

I work with teenagers and adults who use all sorts of behaviors to try to feel better, even when they know those behaviors are hurtful to themselves or others, or aren't in line with their values. I have worked with self-harm, thoughts of suicide, and emotional dysregulation in inpatient and outpatient settings. I rely on behavioral and emotional strategies to help you understand why you're using these behaviors and what to do instead.

— Tricia Mihal, Clinical Social Worker in Austin, TX

I help clients identify why they self-harm, the triggers to self-harm, alternatives to self-harm, and successful strategies in overcoming self-harm.

— Christian Hill, Licensed Professional Counselor in Frisco, TX

Emotional regulation and distress tolerance may help individuals who feel overwhelmed in their emotional mind, and turn to self-harm. When safety and containment is not familiar, it can be easy to unconsciously re-enact or re-play out harmful experiences. Inflicting pain can also be a way to feel, and a way to attain intimacy with others.

— Jess Piasecki, Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in Walnut Creek, CA

I have 8 years of experience working with individuals that have significant urges to harm themselves or are experiencing suicidal ideation. I think that recognition, honesty, openness, and having a supportive ally, are really important steps in beginning the path of challenging self harm urges and actions.

— Sam Anderson, Clinical Social Worker in Golden Valley, MN