SELF HARM

People who self harm invariably have severe emotional problems. These patients become so desperate that they use sharp instruments, such as knives or razor blades to make cuts into their arms and often on examination many scars can be found from previous cuts. For this reason they frequently cover their arms with long sleeved garments to hide the evidence.

The reason behind self harming is complex: however, they often state the reason they cut themselves is that they consider the pain from the self inflicted injury to be less severe than the internal emotional anguish which they are suffering.

The treatment of choice for these patients is individual psychotherapy. It is important at the outset, to reassure the patient that it is possible to treat this condition successfully.

In the treatment sessions, the patient is encouraged to express the very unpleasant feelings which he or she is harbouring in side. In this way the anguish is released in the safe and non judgmental environment of the consulting room, so the emotional pain is reduced which in turn decreases the need for self harming. One of the important functions of the therapist when treating patients with this disorder is to offer a strongly supportive environment to counteract traumatic childhood experiences.

 

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David Kraft


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