Many struggling addicts and alcoholics also suffer an addiction to pain that can be a problem in its own right. For example, some people get addicted to cutting themselves and watching the blood flow. In some cases they may be addicted to the sensation and the pain in itself, others might be addicted to the idea that they are flirting with suicide. In any case, these sorts of behaviors are obviously both dangerous and unhealthy, regardless of whether you also have chemical dependency or not.
Some people who fall into these sort of pain addiction behaviors accidentally end up killing themselves. You can imagine how great a tragedy this is for someone who is not really intending to kill themselves, but is only addicted to the rush that they get from the pain. It is no less tragic than a drug overdose, and is essentially the same thing.
So what can be done about those who engage in self harm?
Most important would probably be professional help. This can take many forms and might deal with other problems that relate to the self mutilation. For example, a person might check into a mental health ward and get diagnosed with certain mental disorders, and receive treatment for that and also be put on certain medications. Or, a person might go to a counselor or a therapist and talk about their issues, which might include more than just the self-harm behaviors (such as chemical dependency).
In other words, this type of problem rarely occurs in isolation. It is not just going to be a person who is addicted to hurting themselves and they have no other problems to speak of. No, it is always more complicated than that. Most will have at least something else going on in their life, and possibly multiple issues, such as:
* Drug or alcohol dependence.
* History of sexual or physical abuse.
* Emotional trauma.
* Mental illness.
* Suicidal thoughts.
And so on. This is not to say that every person will have all of these problems, but chances are good that anyone with this type of behavior will have at least one or a few of these accompanying issues.
Therefore, it is important to realize that there are almost always multiple problems, and they all have to be treated in some fashion. You cannot just treat one layer of the issue without trying to help the person as a whole.
This means that an holistic approach makes the most sense. Professional help should come first. But this step can help to guide you towards other solutions.
Counseling or therapy can help give you the guidance you need to tackle other issues. For example, any counselor is going to encourage you to deal with a drug addition or substance abuse problem. They are going to push you to deal with this because it is a primary problem that will seriously impede your ability to get help with your self harm issues if you do not deal with it.
On a similar note, getting help in a mental hospital will help to identify other issues that may be holding you back as well. You have to treat the person as a whole and get their whole life back on track, rather than to focus on just one aspect of their problems.
Peer support may be critical, especially for those who are younger. There is not a lot of support out there for self harm groups, simply because there is not much volume in that area. But on a side note, if substance abuse is part of their problem, then there are quite a few meetings to be had in the 12 step fellowships. Again, look to an holistic approach to get the best possible treatment for this condition.