Self-Harm Therapy in Madison, WI

Many people cut themselves, or burn, scrape, bang, pick, or pull.  

Self-harm is defined as the intentional, direct injuring of body tissue, without suicidal intent. Often thought of as a coping mechanism, many who engage in self-harm report self-inflicted physical pain relieves the pressure of emotional pain, dulling the intensity of anxiety, depression, stress, emotional numbness, feelings of failure or self-loathing.

Self-harm occurs in individuals both with and without other clinical issues such as eating disorders, PTSD, and abuse. While suicide is not the immediate objective, there is a relationship between self-harming and suicidal thinking. Those who have experienced self-harm to be an effective way of managing unbearable feelings often have great difficulty letting go of the behavior. To complicate matters, when you injure yourself, natural endorphins are released in your system, resulting in a kind of “rush” or “high” that is pleasurable. This can add to the motivation to engage in self-harm again.

There is often a cyclical nature to a self-harming habit — a period of stress and during which emotional discomfort builds, followed by a time during which a person may resist the urge to self-harm, and then a giving in to the need, often with a kind of ritualistic quality. Others engage in self-harm in a state of dissociation — when they are “checked out,” and don’t consciously realize they are doing it until later.

Either way, self-harm is not a desirable or effective coping mechanism. We find a careful exploration of the feelings leading to self-injury, and an examination of the thoughts and assumptions embedded in the behavior, can reveal other ways of achieving the desired end. We are all seeking emotional equilibrium. If we foster self-awareness and compassion, and allow ourselves our feelings, there is a rich variety of healthy ways to cope with whatever we experience. Our Madison therapists will help you find your resilience, and through a supportive relationship, will guide you to develop the capacity to tolerate your own feelings without checking out or resorting to a harmful practice of self destruction.