As well as being difficult for the individual concerned the behaviours and the consequences such as scaring and wounds can be very frightening for those around the sufferer.
The sufferer often finds they feel compelled to harm themselves to manage unbearable feelings and thoughts.
It is an addictive behavior, becoming worse over time if left untreated. The sufferer is often in deep denial that the behavior they perceive as helping them is in fact causing the problem they are seeking to control.
Ways of self-harming can include:
over-eating or under-eating
burning your skin
inserting objects into your body
hitting yourself or walls
scratching and hair pulling
They are connected problems and have a common source for treatment – utilising psychotherapy and psycho-social treatments, including support groups in a community setting that help one another.
Treatment and support is focussed first on stopping and managing the disordered self harming. Simultaneously developing more effective coping mechanisms around the triggers to acting out, then addressing any emotional and mental health issues that are sitting beside the disordered behaviour.
Families are often crucial in this process when young people have these behaviours, and will be encouraged to look at how the family system as a whole may have adapted to manage the problems and how it need to change to support the recovery.
As self-harming is linked to addiction in the more general sense it often responds well to recovery focused therapy approaches.