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Self-harm treatment is tailored to the needs of each individual. A therapist will start by working one on one with a patient who engages in self-harm in order to understand the reasons for the behavior and to discover a strategy for the patient to use instead of self-harm. Treatment often includes therapy and may include medication. Though different for every person, self-harm treatment is generally effective when a person recognizes the need to replace destructive behaviors with ones that do not result in injury.
The first step to any successful self-harm treatment plan is for a patient to recognize the problem. Patients who do not want to stop harming themselves may undergo therapy to discuss their reasons for wanting to continue the behaviors. If the self-harm is serious and poses a risk to the patient's health and safety, a temporary stay in a psychiatric hospital may be required. Once the safety of the patient is assured, the patient can return home and begin therapy with doctors who are trained in self-harm treatment.
In some patients, mental health disorders may be at the root of the self-harm. They may be depressed or suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or other illnesses that create a perceived need to inflict self-harm. Prescription medications may be given to a patient with one of these disorders to help control the symptoms. Not all patients harm themselves because of a mental health disorder, however.
Therapy is the main focus of self-harm treatment. Patients may work one on one with therapists or in group therapy. The purpose of the therapy is to help a patient to determine what conditions lead to the feelings of needing to inflict harm so that the behavior can be anticipated and avoided.
Learning new behaviors is another component of self-harm treatment. Therapists will work with patients to find appropriate replacements for the behavior that are tailored to the needs of the patient. Patients who engage in self-harm because of anxiety may be asked to try taking warm baths or listening to soft music as alternative behaviors, whereas patients who harm themselves because of anger may be asked to try exercise or noise-making as ways to relieve the emotion.
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