Self-harm or self-injury, also known as non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), is harm inflicted by a person on their body via different methods. According to research, the cause behind the injury is emotional or psychiatric instability (Kerr, Muehlenkamp & Turner, 2009). Being a pervasive behavior that does not end as soon as the person stops hurting themself, it is an ordeal that continues and changes its face from harming the body to feeling shame and guilt over the act repeatedly. Studies suggest that it might seem impossible to ever get out of the cycle of self-harm but you can break free of it by working through in Dialectic Behavior Therapy.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or more commonly known as DBT was originally designed to treat patients of borderline personality disorder (BPD), but it is also tailored to treat NSSI. It proves to be effective because many patients of BPD tend to harm themselves and according to various researches done, DBT is the most effective method in dealing with NSSI for different age groups and genders.
DBT is conducted by a licensed mental health professional. It is generally conducted in four different stages which are programmed and customized by the therapist according to the person’s particular case.
When DBT was developed, it was based on the concept that a person exhibits self-harming behavior when they are overwhelmed by negative emotions and they do not know how to channel those emotions. Keeping that in mind, the focus of DBT is to help reduce and eventually stop people from self-harming. It teaches them skills to handle emotions which will lead to controlled behavior, interpretation of their own emotions and solving issues occurring in their life, thus leading to a better quality of life.
DBT techniques are built on scientific principles. The idea is to work to change your own neurochemistry or autonomic nervous system in a crisis. Natasha Tracy a consultant states that it might sound complicated, but really it isn’t, the techniques are quite simple.
Dialectical behavior therapy uses many acronyms to help people remember techniques and the one that is commonly used is T.I.P.
T – Temperature: Change your body temperature to change your autonomic nervous system (the part of your body that handles unconscious functions like breathing and heart rate)
Tracy (2012) suggests to take advantage of your dive reflex, seen when you dive into cold water. Hold your breath and submerge your face into ice water or hold cold packs up to your face. It’s important that you get the eye socket area and under the eye cold.
Warm your body to relax. Soak in a warm bath or put your feet in hot water.
Another one Tracxy (2012) suggests is intensely exercising to calm down a body revved up by stress and emotions.
Engage in intense exercise even if only for a short time
Expend your body’s pent up energy and strength by running, walking fast, walking up stairs, playing basketball, weightlifting, etc.
Tracy (2012) also suggests to progressively relax your muscles, starting with your hands and moving to your forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, forehead, eyes, cheeks and lips, tongue and teeth, chest, upper back, stomach, buttocks, thighs, calves, ankles and feet – tense for 10 seconds the relax each muscle and move onto the next.
Kerr, P. L., & Muehlenkamp, J. J. (n.d.). Nonsuicidal Self-Injury: A Review of Current Research for Family Medicine and Primary Care Physicians. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from http://www.jabfm.org/content/23/2/240.full
Tørmoen, A.J. (n.d.). Self-Harm among Adolescents: From Identification to Tailored Treatment [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/55209/PhD-AJ-Tormoen.pdf
Tracy, N. (2012). Stopping Self-Harm Urges Using Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Retrieved from http://www.jabfm.org/content/23/2/240.full
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