Common Treatment Options of Self Injurious Behavior

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Introduction

Ever found yourself biting your nails when you're nervous or scratching an itch a little too much?

These are mild forms of what experts call 'self-injurious behavior.' In more severe cases, people intentionally harm their bodies as a way to deal with emotional pain or distress.

It's a complex issue that's often misunderstood, but it's more common than you might think.

The good news? There are many effective treatments available, from talk therapy to creative therapies like art and music.

And just like a physical wound needs care and attention to heal, so does emotional pain. 


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Psychotherapy


Psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy, is a common and effective treatment method for self-injurious behavior.

The therapeutic process is grounded in dialogue and aims to help a person identify and change unhealthy thought patterns, behaviors, and emotions.

Among the various types of psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has shown significant effectiveness in managing self-injurious behavior.

CBT focuses on changing problematic behaviors, feelings, and thoughts by understanding their origin and how they affect current behavior.

It helps individuals develop coping strategies and new ways of thinking, which can reduce the urge to self-harm.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are also effective psychotherapeutic approaches.

DBT, originally developed for individuals with borderline personality disorder, often includes a focus on skills training to help manage emotions, tolerate distress, and improve relationships.

Conversely, ACT promotes the acceptance of one's thoughts and emotions, instead of resisting them or feeling remorseful for having them.

It promotes acceptance and mindfulness as a path to overcome self-injurious behavior.


Group Therapy and Peer Support


Imagine going through a journey with fellow travelers who understand your struggles because they've faced similar challenges.

That's what group therapy brings to the table in treating self-injurious behaviors.

With group therapy, individuals can find a sense of community, reducing feelings of isolation.

It's a safe space where people can share their experiences, learn from others, and practice new skills under the guidance of a trained professional.

Plus, seeing others making progress can be incredibly inspiring and motivating!

Peer support, on the other hand, is like having a friend who's been there and done that.

This form of support comes from people who have personally experienced self-injurious behavior and are now in a position to help others. They can offer practical advice, emotional support, and shared understanding, making the journey less lonely.


Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques


Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present, observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them as good or bad.

It's like taking a mental step back and watching the movie of your life play out without getting swept up in the drama.

There are numerous techniques to practice mindfulness and relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises.

Yoga, a practice that combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation, can help lower stress, improve relaxation, and increase body awareness.

Deep breathing exercises can also help reduce tension and relieve stress.

The evidence supporting the effectiveness of these techniques is substantial. Research has shown that mindfulness can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, improve sleep, and even alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties.

It's also been linked to decreased depression and increased emotional regulation.

Similarly, regular meditation has been found to enhance memory and mental clarity, and it's even been used effectively to treat specific problems, including depression, pain, smoking, and addiction.


Inpatient Treatment Programs


Inpatient treatment programs can be a critical step in the journey to recovery for individuals dealing with severe self-injurious behaviors or co-occurring disorders.

These programs are typically necessary when outpatient treatments have not been effective, the individual's safety is at risk, or they need a more structured environment to focus solely on recovery.

Inpatient treatment provides round-the-clock care and supervision, reducing the risk of harm and creating a supportive, distraction-free environment to concentrate on healing.

During inpatient treatment, individuals can expect a comprehensive approach to recovery, which often includes medical detoxification, psychotherapy, group therapy, and other holistic treatments like yoga and meditation.

In addition, inpatient treatment programs offer educational sessions to help individuals understand their behaviors and develop healthier coping mechanisms.


Other Therapeutic Approaches


Art Therapy -  Art therapy is a non-judgmental approach that allows individuals to explore their emotional pain through non-verbal methods. It's been found to produce statistically significant positive effects on negative symptoms.

Music Therapy - Music therapy uses music-based interventions to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. It has been reported to reduce anxiety, depression, and pain, and improve quality of life.

Pet Therapy - Animal-assisted therapy, commonly referred to as pet therapy, encompasses the engagement between an individual and a professionally trained animal. The aim is to enhance the person's mental, physical, social, and emotional functioning.


Creating a Personalized Treatment Plan


Every individual is unique, with different triggers, coping mechanisms, and responses to treatment.

A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to yield the best results.

A personalized treatment plan takes into account the individual's specific needs and goals, ensuring that the treatment process is not only effective but also empowering for the individual.

There are several factors to consider when creating a treatment plan.

These include the individual's medical history, the severity and frequency of self-injurious behaviors, any co-occurring mental health conditions, and the individual's personal preferences for treatment (e.g., medication, psychotherapy, alternative therapies).

Healthcare professionals play a pivotal role in this process. They conduct thorough assessments to identify the contributing factors to the individual's self-injurious behaviors and work collaboratively with the individual to develop a plan that addresses these factors effectively. 


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Conclusion


There are several treatment options available for individuals dealing with self-injurious behaviors, ranging from psychotherapy and medication to inpatient programs and alternative therapeutic approaches like art therapy, music therapy, and pet therapy.

Each option has its strengths and can be tailored to meet an individual's unique needs and circumstances.

The key to successful treatment is seeking help and adhering to the treatment plan, even when progress seems slow or challenging.

If you or someone you know is struggling with self-injurious behavior, please reach out to a healthcare professional.

There is help available, and it's never too late to start on the path to recovery. 


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May 24th, 2024

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