Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI)
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information 15 out of 100 adolescents, 11 out of 100 young adults, and 4 out of 100 adults in the United States engages in some form of Non-Suicidal Self-Injurious behavior over the course of their lifetime. Additionally, recent general population rates have found equivalent rates between men and women.
What is Non-Suicidal Self-Injury?
NSSI is the intentional destruction of one’s own body without suicidal intention and usually for purposes of distracting or numbing from emotional and psychiatric distress and/or self-punishment. In rare instances, self-injury can be used to influence others. Many people who engage in NSSI have more than one method of injuring themselves. Some common examples include cutting, burning, scratching, banging body parts, hitting oneself, and cramping body parts purposely. NSSI has been found to increase the risk of suicide, making it crucial to address these behaviors as soon as possible.
Once NSSI is used by an individual it becomes easier to turn to that behavior when in distress. An urge is often developed. The performance of the self-injurious behavior provides a calming effect or feeling of relief, which reinforces the continued use of the behavior during distress. Many people describe starting these behaviors by only engaging in them occasionally, but often find that the behaviors have increased to daily or multiple times a day.
People who engage in NSSI often struggle to tolerate uncomfortable emotions because they have reduced their thresholds for emotional intensity due to their unwillingness to feel their uncomfortable emotions. People who engage in NSSI often feel shameful and may try to hide their cuts or scars from others.
How is NSSI Treated?
The good news is that there is a highly effective treatment approach for those that engage in NSSI behaviors. The first-line of treatment is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), medications, or both.
DBT is a mindfulness based cognitive behavioral therapy treatment approach aimed at increasing mindfulness, building skills to regulation all emotions, including the uncomfortable ones, interpersonal effectiveness, and distress tolerance to address those crisis moments when the urge feels strong and too powerful.
If getting help to address your self-injurious behaviors seems scary, don’t worry, we understand, and you are not alone. Your therapist is there to guide you every step of the way, by helping you to set small goals for yourself, providing you with every tool necessary, and cheering you on in your recovery. We feel strongly that if you are engaging in NSSI it is important to reach out for help and we are confident that our therapist at OakHeart can help guide and support you toward recovery.