How DBT Treatment Helps to Prevent Self-Harm

Raising awareness of self-harm is important as living with psychiatric illnesses increases the risk of self-harming behaviors. When people struggling with mental health issues understand the dangers, they’re more willing to get the help they need through treatment. Plus, when awareness of this issue is brought about, the stigmas surrounding self-harm and mental health issues can bring about empathy and compassion for those who have experience with self-harm. Therefore, giving people the push they need to reach out if they’re dealing with thoughts of self-harm themselves. Fortunately, even though it may be hard for a person struggling with thoughts of self-harm to get help, there is assistance available. For example, DBT treatment can give people the skillsets they need to control thoughts of self-harm and reduce the risk of these behaviors.

What is Self Harm?

Self-harm is when a person intends to injure themselves. In most cases, self-injury is not done with the intention of suicide. However, some cases of self-harm have led to accidental suicide. And, there are lasting psychological effects for people and family members of those who have conducted self-harming behaviors. People who think about or have attempted self-harm are typically more lonely as they isolate themselves from others. They may feel like self-harming gives them an escape from the pains that everyday life brings, including symptoms of concurring mental health issues. However, any release that self-harming behaviors allow are only superficial and short-lived. Thus, causing a cycle of self-harming behaviors that can lead to more permanent psychological damage.

Some examples of self-harming behaviors include:

-any instance of harming oneself without suicidal intentions
-abusing addictive substances
-disordered eating
-risky behaviors (having unprotected sex, driving under the influence, etc.)

Self-harm is more prevalent in younger individuals. It is found that the majority of people who conduct self-harming behaviors are in their teens or in their college years. But, it’s always done for the purpose of releasing feelings or pain in a physical way. For example, cutting oneself in order to feel physical pain when having there is a numbness to emotions. In any case of self-harm, these behaviors are typically brought on by underlying and undiagnosed mental health issues. For instance, people who self-harm are often diagnosed with mental health issues like anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, substance use disorder, or eating disorders. Carrying the pain of living with the symptoms of mental health issues can help us understand further why people may participate in self-harming behaviors. And, give us a better idea of how to approach and treat these issues.

DBT Treatment Helps People Who Self Harm

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, is a treatment that’s often used to help people control thoughts and behaviors associated with self-harm. It’s a type of talk therapy that involves one-on-one counseling with a DBT specialist who helps individuals identify the causes of self-harming behaviors. And, provides incentives and methods for replacing negative self-harming behaviors with more positive ones.

There are four different skill sets that are taught to individuals who struggle with self-harm during DBT sessions including:

Mindfulness: This tool is a method of remaining in the present moment. It allows individuals to become more aware of their actions as they focus on what’s happening right now rather than the past or what is to come. Therefore, giving people the means to deal with their present thoughts and feelings as they arise without judgment and with acceptance. And, giving people who struggle with self-harm the opportunity to think before making irrational decisions, like participating in self-harming behaviors.

Emotional Regulation: This is the practice of learning how to control one’s own emotions. It’s a difficult process, but it allows people who struggle with self-injury to overcome the emotions that typically lead to self-harming behaviors. This practice involves working to understand that emotions are only temporary and that what is more permanent is the behaviors we act upon due to our emotions.

Interpersonal Effectiveness: This is the practice of leaning on others to unburden thoughts and emotions that can lead to self-harming behaviors. Most people who self-harm isolate themselves which doesn’t give them an outlet to express how they feel. So, interpersonal effectiveness is the practice of gaining a supportive network and depending on certain individuals to help express emotions before they’re bottled up and uncontrollable.

Distress Tolerance: This is the practice of accepting that life is never predictable. In many cases, we can’t control what happens. So, accepting this fact of life can help people who have trouble dealing with overwhelming thoughts and emotions be able to come to acceptance. When we can sit and think about what’s going on rather than act, this is practicing distress tolerance.

DBT Treatment at Delray Center for Healing

If you or a loved one is struggling with self-harm, DBT treatment may help. The DBT program at Delray Center for Healing is available on an outpatient basis to assist people struggling with mental health issues and self-harming behaviors. Learn more about how we can help on our website.