Treating Self-Harm Addiction

What is self-harming?

Self-harming can include cutting, burning with lighters, cigarettes and other hot implements, and general acts of bodily harm, such as hitting one’s head against a wall repeatedly. This mutilation can be so severe that the sufferer may need medical treatment and hospitalisation.

The results of self-harm symptoms leave permanent scars on the body, which the sufferer may be proud of when immersed in their addiction. It can also cause deep shame of their behaviour resulting in their hiding the evidence from others.

Oasis recognises self-harm as an addiction that is just as powerful as all other compulsive behaviours such as gambling and drug addiction.

Self-harm is so effective at removing the focus of the self-harmer’s emotions, the act of cutting becomes an addictive coping mechanism. When the body is subjected to injury, serotonin and adrenalin are released, making the act of self-mutilation even more of a high-inducing activity. 

Methods used by people include cutting flesh with a sharp object, burning skin with a cigarette or branding with scorching lighters. A person who engages in self-harm usually follows a specific ritual. For example, only maiming a certain part of their body and using a favourite tool to do so; some prefer glass, some prefer razor blades or other instruments.

The patient will usually make an effort to hide their addiction and scars despite their actions being a cry for help. Many people react to this condition by thinking that the person is an attention seeker, which is sometimes the case, but they still need help for very valid reasons. Another common misconception about this illness is that the person is trying to commit suicide – this is not true.

At Oasis Counselling Centre we encourage self-mutilators to work a Twelve Step Recovery programme. This should be done while receiving individual one-on-one sessions in conjunction with group therapy when treating their addiction.

We recommend that a client seeking help for a self-harm addiction at our facility remains with us for twelve weeks. Thereafter  admission to our tertiary care facility (Halfway House)  Solar House is ideal.

If you have any questions about self-harm addiction treatment, please contact Oasis Counselling Centre in Plettenberg Bay.