Shoving safety pins through pieces of skin???


New Member
Our difficult child came home from school the other day, took off her sandals, sat down on the couch, and propped up her feet...about 15 seconds later, I looked over to her to say hi, and the first thing I noticed was there were safety pins stuck through cunks of skin on her feet, and closed on the other side. Probably 3 or 4 each foot...and there were several "cuts" or "tears" in other places on her feet where she had done the same thing, and then torn them out while they were still closed...

**Sorry guys, I know this is kinda gross, but what else can I do besides ask you all about it? lol**

The thing is, I KNOW that this in itself isn't dangerous, although possibly painful, it isn't like she could bleed to death from her feet or anything...however, she did have ONE episode of cutting on her arms a few months ago, which she TELLS us she did not enjoy at all and said we don't need to worry about her trying that is this just an alternative means to cause herself pain?? When I asked her about it, she just kinda blew me off and refused to remove the pins (basket a??? if it stays at the extreme it is now, probably not, but who knows if this will excellerate into something more???) I didn't push the issue of removal at the time, but I asked her why she did it, and she said "because they are my feet, and I can". I plan to discuss this issue with her therapist on Tuesday when we meet with her, but I was wondering if anyone had any insight into this behavior, since it isn't exactly cutting, I don't know if it qualifies as something to worry the mean time, in case she comes home with more pins in her feet or other places...


Active Member
Yes, this is an alternative to cutting. It also sounds like a control issue. I wouldn't force the issue now, but definitely talk to her therapist. My main concern in the short term is the risk of infection - feet aren't the cleanest and wearing safety pins through holes like this is asking for an infection. Unless these are surgical steel (and I doubt it - most safety pins are rougher than that, some are even brass with steel coating) she is likely to get at least a mild infection.

Let it happen. Just make sure you have stocks of disinfectant, antiseptic and cotton wool. My own first aid kit for when this happens - hydrogen peroxide (to make sure any anaerobic bacteria get killed off fast) plus ti-tree oil, as an antifungal/antiseptic that doesn't sting too much and that also leaves a light coating over the wound to protect it. Rubbing alcohol applied with cotton wool WILL hurt, but if she's doing this to feel pain, maybe that's a good idea.

Getting an infection is a darn good deterrent, as is having to explain to the doctor WHY she has holes in her feet...

basically, the romance and the shock of the act is much less fun when you have pus and fever getting involved. When you have to explain it all in the cold light of a doctors surgery, you can feel really foolish. And it's not the parent lecturing, it's a total stranger, albeit one with a medical degree.

Talk to the therapist. Ask difficult child if you can take a photo - after all, if it's no big deal then a photo for your archives won't be a problem, surely? Tell her you want the photo to show her grandchildren one day.



I am not a nail biter, but I do bite the skin around my nails. I use to put pins in the skin..not leave them there, but just because I could. Never caused any bleeding, it was just in the thicker skin.
If it isn't bleeding there shouldn't be too much risk of infection. My easy child has his tongue peirced..I would think that would be a high risk for infection. He grosses out all the little neighbor kids by putting a long uncooked peice of spaghettie through it. YUK!!


Well-Known Member
in my opinion it's an alternative to cutting. Although he won't die from it, I'd make it a big priority to tell the psychiatrist about it. My daughter was a cutter. She said it became a habit and found it very hard to stop doing it. Her explanation was, "It focused the pain to another area."


I agree it's a form of cutting. Her medications (in particular, Concerta) could be contributing to the problem. Stimulants like Concerta can exacerbate anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) thinking. Definitely call the psychiatrist tomorrow morning and report what you're observing. in my humble opinion, this needs attention immediately from an emotional standpoint.
If it is dead skin, there is no pain. It may not be an alternative to cutting, just trying for shock value. I used to do that when I was a kid too. Why? Because I was a stupid kid. It was the dead skin around the fingernails or on the heels of my feet. And then "look mom!" She ignored me a few times, and I stopped.

If this is going through live skin, it is a different story entirely, and then yes, I would treat it as cutting.


New Member fuzzy memory working here, but I *think* I recall doing something similar myself, as others have mentioned...sticking pins through the surface layer of skin where there are no nerve endings, no blood...just because you can. For me, it wasn't a form of cutting (I was never a cutter), more of a thing to do...I always enjoyed pouring Elmurs glue on my fingers and peeling that off like skin LOL or picking at water blisters on my feet...I also peel my nails...I'm just a peeler I guess! LOL

So, I guess the real question here is, how deep is she going with the pins? Is she passing that surface layer of skin? She she hitting nerve endings causing pain? Is she bleeding? If so, then yes...perhaps then it's more of an issue than just "shock value" or doing it just because you can.


Active Member
From the initial description ("stuck through chunks of skin" as well as "torn out areas"), this sounded to me like a lot more than merely threading pins through the outer layer of skin (which I also used to do, and like all other kids thought I had invented this clever trick). I remember doing it on the palms of my hands as this had a thicker layer of epidermis, but the analogous part of the foot is the sole, which is just too thick and horn-like to do this. Between the toes the tissue is thinner although the skin is stretched a bit more. More nerve endings, fewer blood vessels in the webbing between the toes. A few capillaries, nothing major.

I doubt she's going to hit any major blood vessels doing this, but it DOES sound like a test of pain and some shock value. However, the test of pain is where the link to cutting comes in.

Feet are really sensitive, for some people. I have a friend who can't bear to have anyone touch her feet. Me, on the other hand, I've trained myself to not react to anyone tickling my feet. Mind over matter. But to inflict injury on your feet - it takes nerve. The child habit of threading pins through the outer layer of skin - I doubt that would be feasible with close safety pins because the weight and drag of them would tear them out too easily. This sounds more in the realm of attempted body piercing. Definitely one to tell the therapist.

The pin threading - it only looks effective when you can show people close up. Feet are already too far away for the shock value to work. It MUST be going through more than just the outer skin layer.

Nasty. Have the ti-tree oil handy! A pity it doesn't sting...


Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
I would mention to psychiatrist and silently keep a watchful eye for now.

I used to do this as a kid. Hands and feet. For me it wasn't shock value. Not exactly sure why I did it. lol Stupid I guess. I was also a horrible nail biter, both hands and feet.

I'd try not to draw too much attention to it. That might be enough to make the behavior fade on it's own. But like I said, I'd keep a watchful eye on the situation in case she decides another method.



New Member
She is a nail-biter, as am I, but I never actually tried to stick safety pins through my skin... she does like to "pick" though, she is constantly sitting in the chair with her feet propped up and digging at dead skin with a pair of tweezers or clippers, but I have NEVER seen her do anything like this before...and BECAUSE I was afraid it was being done for "shock value", I tried not to make a big deal about it, and didn't really push the issue. It seems to me that it is up on the sides of her feet, on the outside, right ABOVE where the dead skin your heels and balls of your feet STOP, so I think it is live skin, but there hasn't been any bleeding that I could see... I am trying not to make a big deal out of it to her because if she IS doing it for effect, that would be rewarding her performance, but I intend to DISCREETLY discuss it with her Therapist and will most certainly talk with her psychiatrist next week when we go to see her.