Posted by: Concerned | 2005/11/18


Self mutilation?

I know this sounds ridiculous but i think that my 5 year old niece is developing a habit of purposely hurting herself. She has bee through a very traumatic time theses past 2 years having had 3 people very close to her pass away, one of which was an infant sibling. She is currently in Grade R at school and seems to be doing very well. Her teacher has recently commented that she has suddenly become "naughty" at school and we have also noticed a change in her behaviour at home. She is very aggressive and hits her mother often. She has developed a habit of stealing things that she wants from anybody she can and she then hides the things away, when we talk to her about it she shows no remorse and says that she is not sorry because she wanted it so she took it!!! Then, she seems to "hurt" herself often. Her mother and i found her digging a sharp fork (which she removed from the kitchen drawer) into her finger, when her mother told her to put the fork down because she was going to hurt herself she responded by saying that she wanted to hurt herself and bleed. She has also told us that she wants to die so that she can go be with her sister. I understand that somethings are normal after a child experiences trauma, but surely this behaviour is not normal? I am extremely concerned about her!!! What should we do?

Expert's Reply



You have been very astute in noticeing this behaviour which is well-known to paediatricians, psychologists and child psychiatrists. I would suggest an early appointment with a child psychologist. The problem is known as self-mutilation.

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user comments


Posted by: Colleen | 2005/11/18

Hi Concerned,

It is heart warming to see an aunty take such a intrest in her niece. I have 5 nieces and nephews and contantly worry about them all the time.

I have no qualifcation regarding this sort of thing, but just words of encouragment.
Every child deals with trama in different ways. It sounds like she is trapped in, by all this sorrow. You guys need to talk about her sibling. Talking heals! Sit her down and try to remember together all the good things about her sister's life, all the good times she had with her, even though she was so young. She may also be freightened that you will forget about her sister now that she is gone. She may be feeling side lined because of this to. Try to include her in as much as possible. Related and unrelated.
We often don't give our kids credit for how much they are able to understand.
(Is it not awful that our children have to through the death of a loved one?)
My only advise is to maybe take her to a child therapist.

And to you, my thoughts are with you and your family during this difficult time.

Reply to Colleen

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