What To Do if OCD Leads to Self-harm
For some sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), obsession can lead to self harm. While this is often related to the obsession side of OCD, it can also relate to the compulsion component of OCD as well. This article offers advice on what to do if OCD symptoms cause you to engage in self harm.
Why do some OCD Sufferers Self Harm?For some OCD sufferers, failing to carry out compulsive rituals in the “correct” way can cause so much distress and anxiety that they turn to self harm to release their frustrations.This is known as Compulsive Self-injury. Common forms of this include hitting, cutting, biting and burning oneself with hot fluids. The injuries created can be minor scratches through to those that need medical assistance.
Self harming can bring significant relief to sufferers including:
- Physical pain to replace emotional pain
- Connecting with emotions to counteract the fact that sufferers often feel that they have been cut off from their emotions or have a feeling of numbness
- Self harming can release chemical endorphins (which are also released during exercise), which can neutralise depression and anxiety (at least for a short period of time)
Some OCD sufferers also suffer from Body Dysmorphia (BD). This is a condition in which people despise their appearance and see “flaws” with their bodies. These “flaws” are often very minor or non-existent, but sufferers may punish themselves regardless. This can take the form of self harm, but it can also include Compulsive Skin Picking (CSP) and Trichotillomania (Compulsive Hair Pulling).
How to Deal with Self HarmingFirstly, you need to recognise the fact that self harm is not a useful coping mechanism for the often overwhelming feelings that many OCD sufferers feel on a regular basis. If self-injury is left untreated, it can spiral out of control. Many sufferers become addicted to self harming, especially if their OCD becomes increasingly overwhelming. Because of this, treatment should follow the same lines as other forms of addiction.
It is a good idea to consult a psychologist or counsellor for professional advice. They can direct you to professional help in your local area. You may also want to seek out other OCD sufferers who have self harmed in the past for moral support from people who have been in your position and understand what you are going through.
For example, the OCD-UK website has a forum in which OCD sufferers can get advice from other members and discuss progress and setbacks with them. Joining an OCD support group can also be a good idea. See our article on “Joining a Support Group for OCD” for more advice on getting involved with an OCD support group.
The symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can lead some sufferers to self harm. This is usually driven by the obsession side of the disorder, although failing to perform compulsive rituals “correctly” can frustrate some OCD sufferers into self harming themselves as a punishment. Recognising that your self harming is not going to help your OCD in the long run and seeking treatment is often the hardest part of the battle. After you have sought professional help, interacting with OCD sufferers who are in the same boat (or have been in the past) can be beneficial.