deliberate self-injury

I have a question purely for informational purposes.

I have been reading a book on deliberate self injury (for work) I'd like to know how many parents/fosters of teens have experienced this with their kids.

Deliberate cutting, burning, scratching, etc. to inflict injury, but not to attempt suicide.

The book says this is phenomenon is on the rise in the U.S and has become known as "the anorexia of the '90's" It is being seen more and more often in psychiatric. hospital and is very difficult to treat. It is seen mostly in females, and mostly in females with a history of trauma. (physical/sexual/emotional abuse) (real or perceived)

Any feedback would be appreciated.


I am upping this.
Our experience may or may not be this - Joe just picks at every scratch and scab - it bleeds, he has deep scars. Had stitches on his knee as a 10 yr old and picked so much he has a large raised scar now.
I told our dentist "no braces" (as if we could even) because I knew he would not only not care for them but he would probably have his mouth so irritated from finding a way to pick at them it wouldn't be worth it.

Mom of 4: 16 yrold difficult child quit Job Corps(adopted) ODD, scheduled for evaluation for poss. BiPolar (BP); 15 yr old easy child recovering from 3 yrs of CFS and daily migraines/depression; 12yo easy child daughter; 3 yr old easy child (I hope!) daughter on the go!!!! husband (very dear)& I married 23 yrs, 2 dogs, Lucky the retired racer/greyhound; Maggie an Olde English mix and one kitty, Domino, new kitten Taffy, all rescued critters.
QUOTE: He who gets too big for his britches will be exposed in the end!
ODD Parent Prayer Room -

We've seen this in our adolescent son. He deliberately self mutilates by cutting, scraping, puncturing, bruising. When he is bleeding from a cut or nosebleed, he deliberately prolongs it because he seems to have a fascination with blood.

It often goes hand in hand with severe depression, which is often not recognized because they symptoms of depression in children are not the same ones seen in adults. Often children present for adhd, odd, and anger problems when depression in the key issue.



New Member
We have a 16 yr difficult child and she has cut herself on many occasions The last time was when she destroyed her room and when we didnt give her the reaction she wanted she took the broken glass and sliced up her hands and arms not deep just enough to bleed a lot. She has also taken a knife and carved a boys name in her leg and chest then poured nail polish in it to make it last. It is really upsetting

anniesmama, eln/babblecon, and eileen.

Thank you for sharing this with me, as I said this disorder is on te rise and becoming more and more prevelant in society. It is very frightening and frustrating, and traditional treatment modalities are not effective, and there is only one known program that spelializes in this treatment.

deliberate self injury is listed as the following behaviors:

*cutting skin
*hitting oneself
*extracting hair to excess
*scratching to excess
*head banging
*biting oneself
*burning oneself
*interfering with the healing of wounds
*breaking bones
*chewing lips, tongue, or fingers
*eye enucleation
*facial skinning
*ingesting sharp or toxic items

You can purchase the book "Bodily Harm" by Karen Contario and Wendy Lader Phd

There is a treatment center in Chicago called S.A.F.E. Alternatives (self abuse finally ends) They have reportedly been quite successful. They can be contacted at: 1-800-dont-cut or

S.A.F.E Alternatives L.L.C.
7115 West North Avenue Suite 319
Oak Park, Illinois 60302

I have that book. It was enlightning. I think a woman I use to be friends with had that problem. She had a lot of very light scars. I won't bore you with the details, but she was enjoyable company. My friends thought she was crazy, but that was because of her stories of her childhood. We went out for awhile, but I never got that close to her. Perhaps if I had I would say she was pretty screwed up. Considering the people I spent a good part of my life with I doubt that though. Relatively speaking she was pretty normal.

I have a 16 year old difficult child that has sliced her arms up with razor blades. She seemed to always do it when she was angry with us. I had to go to the school to reassure them that nothing terrible was happening in our home. I took her to a psychiatrist who diagnosed her as depressed, prescribed anti-depressants she refuses to take. She is also bullimic. I have no idea what is wrong or why she does these things. She has had a much better home environment than the one I grew up in. Her arms are a mess of scars. She used to carve on her legs too but not as much as her arms. I sympathize but I am still looking for the answers. I know how you feel, you are not alone.

Amy's MOM

My oldest daughter is 27 and is a difficult child. (I don't feel like she is right now though. I've had it!) She has self mutilated many, many times over the years. She has scars from her wrists to her elbows. About 6 months ago she cut her wrists so bad that I had to call 911 for help. She spent 3 days in the psychiatric ward and they let her go! Same thing happened a couple of weeks ago. This time they kept her for 2 days! I was so upset I wanted to call the Dr. and ask him what the hell was he doing releasing her so soon. She has insurance so it's not about money. I just can't understand it. I believe that most women who self mutilate have been sexually abused. It's a way for them to be in control. Sometimes they hurt themselves because they believe that the abuse was somehow their fault and they deserve to be hurt. I don't know much about males who do this but I would say that the numbers are much lower. I believe they hurt themselves in other ways.

Grammy P
Patience 45 yrs old, divorced and raising my 9 (10 next week) yr old difficult child grandson. I have maj. depression and PTSD...I take 150mg of Zoloft a day and at bedtime I take 1mg of Klonopin and 10mg of Ambien. Can't sleep without them.
difficult child grandson Dana has been diagnosed with maj. depression,conduct disorder, ADHD, PTSD and tics. He is on 5mg of Ritalin three times a day. He also has asthma and takes Albuteral inhaler and 10mg of Claritin a day.
28 yr old difficult child (grandson's mom) bi-polar disorder and borderline personality disorder. She will not take her medications.
22 yr old easy child best friend.... /importthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif she has 2 children. A 2 yr old easy child daughter and a 4 yr old difficult child son. Waiting for appointment with psychiatric for diagnosis.
I hope nobody takes offense to this but my favorite saying is "Ignorance Breeds Ignorance"

I would suggest you both read the book. It is a good starting point. Also there are several support boards for both those that are engaging in self-injury and those in a relationship with them. I wish I could recommend a specific one, but I'm not familar with them. I wish that last time this topic came up I would have remembered the board that was recommended.

Theresa, as AJoyce pointed out it is real OR perceived trauma. Also while home is a significant part of their environment it is not all of their environemnt. It is usually trauma that sparks it. A recurring trauma would certainly reinforce it, but it really only takes one to get it going. Even with a trauma there is a good deal of random chance involved. Normally they are highly stressed and by chance are injured. They don't decide to hurt themselves, but rather it is an accident. The endomorphines released by the injury calms them like a seditive and they make the connection.

Trauma produces a prolonged stress which provides a bigger window of opportunity for that random injury. Repeated trauma just makes for an even bigger window. It can be just an unlucky roll of the dice. It could be something as trivial as panicing over breaking your favorite vase and having time to worry about until you find out. She tries cleaning it up, cuts herself and the connection is made. 90% of the time trauma is involved, but there is that other 10%. I believe they almost always know exactly when they first made the connection. Hopefully someday she tells you and you can have a lot of worries laid to rest.

Grammy P, I certainly understand why you would believe self-hatred, shame or guilt is involved since it was the only way I could rationalize it. I would have strong reservations about giving it too much weight though. I think in the vast majority of cases that they are very ashamed of their problem just as many alcoholics are ashamed of their inability to stop drinking. That shame could easily be misunderstood. Obviously with her being 27 you have dealt with this for a long time so I certainly wouldn't say you are wrong.

I urge you to both read the book. It certainly changed how I viewed it. If your daughters explained to you how this all got started you would most likely view it a good deal differantly, but regretably they have to be on the road to recovery to do that. If nothing else the book at least explains how some other people got started doing this. I would think for a parent it might lay a lot of fears about what they might have done wrong to rest. More importantly it may give you a few ideas on how to get them started on that road to recovery. I would think that would be worth about any price to you and it only costs $25.

What Oddchild has said is true, most do discover the connection between self-injuring and relief by mistake. There is an emerging problem now, though. This disorder is becoming more common, or more talked about, and adolescents, being what they are, imitate the behavior then get stuck in this viscious cycle. I have dealt with many self injurers in psychiatric hospitals, and the majority of them have a history of trauma (physical/sexual/and/or emotional) but there are a few where there is no trauma is found. Unfortunately, if you have someone with a borderline personality d/o they frequently perceive emotional neglect/abuse where none truly exists. Borderlines have a "black or white" mentality. Something or someone is all bad or all good, but never in between. With borderlines their insatiable desirefor attention or nurturing cannot be fulfilled by anyone in heaven or on earth, therefore they perceive being neglected.
About dicovering self-injury by accident...the very worst self mutilator I have ever encountered discovered it like this: G was raised by a mentally ill mother who was very physically abusive, she also prostituted her daughter to her male friends at a very young age. G would worry all day every day through school about what would set her mother off and cause her to beat her. She would tiptoe around her mother in a constantly escalating state of anxiety. When her mother finally snapped and meted out the beating of the day G could calm down because there was no longer any dread of being beaten. She learned to connect physical pain with relief from anxiety.

Usually people mutilate because they lack the ability or feel they lack the ability to verbally express and make others understand the extent of their emotions.

That last sentence is very interesting. It gives a good deal of food for thought.

I went through a major depression a few years ago, and one of the things I did was self mutilate. I thought for one, If I would bleed, the pain would go away, and two, many times I just wanted to feel somthing. It was horrible to go through. Haven't had any problems in 3 1/2 years.

Mom to 6. 5 easy child, 1 difficult child. current medications include adderol, depakote, tennex and new medication, celexia with a new antipsychotic me starting today, with prn for haldol. Possibly bipolar with psychotic episodes, adhd, and odd. Continuously seeking knowledge and information for answers on how to help this lovely wonderful child!