Need help breaking free from addiction?
Call 24/7 for treatment options. Who Answers?

Self-Injuring Sister


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

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

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.


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.


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.

More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists


Call the Helpline Toll-FREE

To Get Treatment Options Now.

1-888-993-3112 Who Answers? 100% Confidential

Get Help For You or a Loved One Here...

Click Here for More Info.


Call The Toll-FREE Helpline 24/7 To Get Treatment Options Now.

100% Confidential
Get Treatment Options From Your Phone... Tap to Expand