Once a Self-Injurer, Always a Self-Injurer? Is That True?

February 8, 2010 Amanda_HP

I was reading one of the self-injury conference transcripts on HealthyPlace about getting help for self-harm. In it, Dr. Sharon Farber, therapist and author of When The Body Is The Target: Self-Harm, Pain and Traumatic Attachments, discusses her belief that self-injury is an addictive behavior. And it got me thinking, like many addicts, do self-injurers carry on their self-injurious behaviors throughout their lives, do they face relapses over time, and is it something they manage, much like any other addict who fights the urge to return to the bottle or some other addictive substance?

The Addictive Nature of Self-Injury

From her research, Dr. Farber found that most people self-injured in an attempt to solve emotional problems, to make himself or herself feel better. "It really served as a form of self-medication. Just as drug addicts and alcoholics use drugs or alcohol in order to medicate themselves, in order to calm themselves down or to rev themselves up, they use self-mutilation to make themselves feel better." (Read more about the causes of self-injury)

Michelle Seliner LCSW, Chief Operating Officer for S.A.F.E. Alternatives, the nationally recognized self-injury treatment program, tells that "although people can and do get better on their own, many find it incredibly difficult to stop self-injury behaviors as it provides an immediate sense of relief."

But Ms. Seliner disagrees with Dr. Farber's view of self-injury as an addiction. "While some of our clients have been diagnosed with psychiatric disorders which may need to be managed over their lifetime, we do not view the behavior of self-injury as an addiction," says Ms. Seliner. "It is our belief that once a client resolves underlying issues, and learns to tolerate uncomfortable feelings rather than attempting to “stuff” them, self-injury becomes unnecessary. It is also our experience that when a client gets healthier, self-injury becomes painful rather than helpful."

Ms. Seliner went onto say that professional self-injury treatment is almost a necessity when it comes to ending self-injurious behaviors. Both she and Dr. Farber told us that if the underlying emotional and psychological problems aren't effectively dealt with in therapy, the self-injury behaviors will continue or a person may stop self-injuring on their own, but it's not unusual that they turn to another form of self-soothing such as alcohol, drugs or sex.

Self-Injury Guest Interview

You may know her on YouTube as "sullengirl." At 25, Christie has been engaged in self-injury for 12 years. In her guest post, Self-Injury: An Emotional Response to a Stressful Situation, she shares why she started self-injuring, her parents' reaction to it, and tools she uses to reduce the urge to self-injure. We go into more detail on these and other topics on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show titled Self-injury Video: Help for People Who Cut Themselves. Christie also discusses her fear that self-injury might last her lifetime.

Plus, HealthyPlace Medical Director, Dr. Susan Wynne, shares her perspective on self-injury treatment and a lasting recovery.

Share Your Experiences with Self-Injury

We invite you to leave a comment to share your experience with self-injury and trying to stop self-injuring. Or maybe you feel it can’t be done. Leave a comment and tell us why.

APA Reference
Amanda_HP (2010, February 8). Once a Self-Injurer, Always a Self-Injurer? Is That True?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 15 from

Author: Amanda_HP

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