Treatment for self-mutilating patients takes
a number of different forms. A combination of treatments may provide
the most effective manner to treat this disease. A variety of treatments
are described below:
Psychologists such as Dr. Alderman publish books with exercises designed
to help self-mutilators overcome the need to harm. The books involve
writing exercises that help them understand why they injure themselves
and the results of their behavior, such as scarring and social isolation.
The people are asked to consider their motivation to self-mutilate,
and its positive and negative consequences.
Effective medical treatment should involve a combination
of psychotherapy and possibly medication. An effective therapist will
help an individual identify the feelings and emotions associated with
self-mutilation. Furthermore, therapy should focus on learning to use
positive behaviors as an alternative to self-mutilation.
Although there is no specific drug of choice to treat self-mutilation,
medications that alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive
disorder, and sleep-impairment are often popular. Preliminary research
has found decreased serotonergic activity in self-mutilators, and hence
selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors such as fluoxetine and sertraline
are often used.
Finally Ends is a program located in Berwyn, Illinois.
SAFE involves self-mutilators enrolling themselves in the program, and
adhering to several ground rules.
-must have a "heartfelt
motivation to stop"
-have the right to voluntarily withdraw at any
-must sign a "no-self-harm contract"
before being admitted to the program
-are discouraged from exhibiting or discussing
scars with other patients to prevent contagion
-must refer to their behavior as self-injury
to control "war stories"
-must complete written assignments that focus
on the negative consequences of self-injury and the benefits of staying
free of self-harm
-are expected to develop and practice at least
five alternatives to self-mutilation
new therapy uses psychophysiological responses to an image or memory
of an event to simulate responses experienced during the actual execution
of self-mutilation. The content of guided imagery has been demonstrated
to effect the psychophysiological response. Through imagery, people
can experience the relief of self-mutilation without actually performing
the act on themselves.