Treatment for Self-Injury

How to Stop Self-Injuring

Dr. Wendy Lader, our guest speaker, is an expert on the treatment of self-injury. She is the clinical director of SAFE (Self Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives. She is the author of the book "Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers".

David Roberts is the moderator.

The people in blueare audience members.

Self-Injury Chat Transcript

David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to I hope everyone's day has gone well. Our conference tonight is on "Treatment for Self-Injury. How To Stop Self-Injuring".

Our guest is Wendy Lader, Ph.D., clinical director of the SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives Program.

Dr. Lader is an internationally recognized expert on the treatment of the self-injurer. She is co-developer and clinical director of S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends) Alternatives, currently housed at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn, Illinois. Developed in 1985, S.A.F.E. remains the only inpatient and partial hospitalization program designed exclusively for the self-injury patient.

How to stop self-injuring. Getting treatment for self-injury and ending self injury behaviors. Conference transcript w/ Dr. Wendy Lader from SAFE Alternatives.She is the co-author of the book, "Bodily Harm: The Breakthrough Healing Program for Self-Injurers" and has published journal articles and lectured extensively on the subject.

Good evening Dr. Lader and welcome to We appreciate you being here tonight. Just so everyone is on the same page here, please give us your definition of self-injury, what is it and what it isn't.

Dr Lader:Self injury is the deliberate harming of one's body in a non-lethal way, with the purpose of managing uncomfortable emotions. It isn't a suicide attempt.

David: Please correct me if I am wrong about this, but people are not "born" being self-injurers. In other words, there's no genetic predisposition to self-injury. What is it then that pushes someone into this type of behavior?

Dr Lader:You're correct.There is no gene for self-injury. However, there may be some predisposition for lower tolerance for frustration. In general though, we find most of our clients come from homes in which communication is indirect or at times violent.

David: I have heard people who are self-injurers say that by cutting themselves, they actually feel better. I think that's difficult for some people to understand. Can you elaborate on that?

Dr Lader:Self injury is a form of numbing, similar to drugs or alcohol. It may even release naturally occurring opiates that make people feel better.

David: And when you say that people come from homes where communication is indirect, can you explain that to us please? And why would that result in self-injurious behavior?

Dr Lader:The answer to this question is complicated. In general, families have difficulty expressing feelings through words. Instead, sometimes these feelings are expressed through action or just not talked about at all.So, people may learn the only way to get attended to is through action or it "turns up the volume" so that people notice that something is wrong.

David: So, are you saying that in some instances, this may be an attention-getting mechanism?

Dr Lader:That's minimizing the problem.When people need to express themselves in this way, it's because other avenues have not been responded to. This creates tremendous frustration and anger without an outlet.

David: You also mentioned the numbing sensation, similar to drugs and alcohol. Would you say that self-injurious behavior is addictive or similar to having an addiction?

Dr Lader:We don't believe it's an addiction, because we do believe that people can fully recover. However, it's addictive-like in that it helps people feel better, though temporary, and it often increases in severity and intensity over time.

David: Here are some audience questions Dr. Lader:

siouxsie: I know a lot of self-injurers have been abused but I have never been abused in any way and I am a Self-Injurer. Is this common?

Dr Lader:Yes. While many self-injurers have experienced physical abuse or sexual abuse, a large number have not.

Exfear: Why do most self-injurers like myself, find that we have to self injure in order to get the help?

Dr Lader:Many people come from families that do not respond to more subtle cries for help.

daybydaymomof2: Is self-injuring in any way hereditary?

Dr Lader:Self injury itself is not hereditary. However, family histories of mood disorders, low tolerance for frustration and other forms of addiction are common.

Silkyfire: I have felt that the feeling of the blood running down my arm is a symbol of the stress leaving. Is that average?

Dr Lader:We hear that very frequently and blood letting has a long history in our culture as a release of "toxins." And maybe in this case it's toxic feelings.

Last Updated: 30 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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