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Self-Injuring Sister

Question:

I have a 16 year old sister who we discovered self-injured. honestly I am frightened and don’t know how to deal with the matter? pls advise

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Answer:

First, don’t panic. Self-Injury (where a person cuts or burns him/herself on purpose) is not a good thing by any means, but it is not the worst thing that could happen either. Most persons who engage in self injury are not trying to kill themselves, but rather are harming themselves so as to feel more in control of their insides. Not that I’m trying to say that self-injury is safe (it is not!), but it is not the same thing as a suicide attempt. Maybe a good way to think about self-injury is that it is a maladaptive attempt at coping with a crazy situation.

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p>Self-injury tends to occur most frequently within the context of Borderline Personality Disorder. I would suggest reading up on Borderline Personality Disorder so you have a better understanding of the mindset from which self-injury makes sense.

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p>While there is no “cure” for self-injury, there is effective treatment that can help. Often, a combination of medication (prescribed by a Psychiatrist) and psychotherapy (to teach adaptive coping skills, self-soothing, etc.) is most effective. Psychologist Marcia Linehan of the University of Washington is a recognized expert on this subject. Her book, “Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder” published by Guilford Press describes an approach to therapy for self-injury with proven efficacy.

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