Overcoming Self Harm / Self Injurious Behaviour

Overcoming Self Harm / Self Injurious Behaviour

by Dr Emma Gray - 5th April, 2013

Overcoming Self Harm / Self Injurious Behaviour

Self Harm or Self Injurious Behaviour is where an individual causes physical harm to themselves. Self harm can either be impulsive (the behaviour is not planned in advance but performed in a reactive way in response to an unforeseen trigger) or compulsive (carried out with intent and forethought). Self harm includes behaviours such as cutting, hitting, and burning and is used as a way of coping with intolerable levels of distress (in the case of impulsive self harm) or as a way of avoiding the experience of distress completely (in the case of compulsive self harm).

Self harm, as it occurs in those with an IQ in the normal range (in individuals with an IQ below 100 self harm often serves a different function) presents as a symptom of one of a number of mental health problems including depression, low mood and low self esteem, anxiety, borderline personality disorder or eating disorders (including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, eating disorders not otherwise specified). The behaviours associated with bulimia nervosa (e.g. bingeing and vomiting) as often thought of as impulsive forms of self harm whereas those associated with anorexia nervosa (e.g. restriction of calorie intake) are often thought of as compulsive self harm.

Currently the most effective treatment for self harm is a therapy or counselling techniques called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) which aims to teach the sufferer to tolerate high level of distress by using coping strategies that are adaptive rather than harmful to themselves. This should be used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to resolve the underlying depression, anxiety or eating disorder.

The clinical and counselling psychologist at The British CBT & Counselling Service have been successfully treating individuals who self harm with a combination of Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for over 12 years so if you suffer from anxiety, depression or an eating disorder, use self harm to cope and live near one of our clinics in Richmond, Fulham, Clapham, Marylebone, call us and make an appointment.

If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our page about Self Harm useful.


If you are suffering with any of the issues discussed in this article and would like to seek professional help then you may find our Self Harm Page helpful.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.

Read more about my approach to counselling here...

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