Why it is Not ‘Just’ Enough to Address the Self Harming Behaviour in Treatment Interventions With Those Who Self Harm

By Caroline Harroe (Harmless CEO)

Self harm is a complex behaviour with a range of underlying causes. It is not simply a matter of wanting to inflict pain on oneself. Instead, self harm is often used as a way to cope with intense emotions, such as anger, sadness and anxiety.

For this reason, it is not enough to simply address the self harming behaviour in treatment interventions with those who self harm. It is also important to address the underlying causes of the behaviour.

Some of the common underlying causes of self harm include:

  • Mental health conditions: Self harm can be associated with mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Trauma: Self harm can also be a way of coping with trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse.
  • Difficult life experiences: Self harm can also be a way of coping with difficult life experiences, such as bullying, bereavement or academic pressure.

Treatment interventions for self harm should be tailored to the individual’s needs and circumstances. However, there are some general principles that can be applied to all treatment interventions.

First, it is important to create a safe and supportive environment for the person. This means building a trusting relationship with the therapist and providing a space where the person feels comfortable talking about their thoughts and feelings.

Second, it is important to help the person to understand the underlying causes of their self harm. This can be done through individual therapy, group therapy or educational workshops.

Third, it is important to help the person to develop healthy coping mechanisms. This may involve teaching them relaxation techniques, problem-solving skills and communication skills.

Finally, it is important to support the person in their recovery journey. This may involve helping them to develop a relapse prevention plan and to connect with support groups.

Here are some of the reasons why it is not enough to simply address the self harming behaviour in treatment interventions with those who self-harm:

  • Addressing the root causes of self harm is essential for long-term recovery. If the underlying causes of self harm are not addressed, the person is more likely to relapse.
  • Self harm is often a symptom of a deeper problem. By addressing the underlying causes of self harm, therapists can help people to resolve the issues that are causing them to self harm.
  • Addressing the underlying causes of self harm can help people to improve their overall well-being. By addressing the underlying causes of self harm, therapists can help people to reduce their stress levels, improve their mood, and increase their self-esteem.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be self harming, please seek professional help. There are a number of resources available here to help people who are struggling with self harm.