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Wednesday, 27 January 2021
Self-Destructive Behavior Print
Symptoms noted by adoptive parents include: head banging, holding breath, biting, scratching, hair pulling, teeth grinding, skin picking & chewing, hitting, gagging

Our son was never violent with others but he did tell us repeatedly starting right before his third birthday that he was going to run away so he could hurt himself. This is what prompted us to go to [an attachment therapist] because we had no idea what to do and it was getting worse and worse (talk of running away and hurting self)...we started 2 [forms of treatment] at pretty much the same time and all running away and hurting self talk stopped and never returned... (a. 6mo, FC)

Starting at 12 months old, he would bite others or himself. For example, he got mad during breakfast when his brother danced around his highchair; since he couldn't reach his brother, he bit himself on the hand. Hard! Five minutes later it was still red with visible bite marks. He bit himself again when he wanted off the changing table before the job was done. If no one were handy, he'd sometimes try to bite a piece of furniture. This behavior was the first attachment symptom that our pediatrician took notice of and was highly concerned about. He'd also pull his own hair sometimes when he was frustrated. (a. 5.5mo, FC)

This is something we saw around 11 months of age. If he didn't get his way he would throw himself on the floor and bang his head. He didn't seem to notice the pain. I would intervene before he hurt himself. This continued until about 15 months on and off. (a. 6mo, FC)

At 11 months, my son started grinding his front teeth. More than grinding. He would grind, but he would also hit them together. At the time, I mentioned it to our hygienist, who said kids often do it at that age when they get new teeth. But he did it SO HARD--hard enough to hurt himself--and I couldn't deter him for anything. I think it was our first real control issue. I totally ignored it (I was afraid if I paid attention, he'd do it hard enough to break his teeth!) and it went away after about a month. This happened at the exact same time that his other attachment symptoms began. (a. 5.5mo, FC)

My daughter pulls her hair really hard, or hits herself on the head--usually while I am rocking her. Sometimes it is after I have pulled her hand down away from my face because she has been hitting me. She also will pinch her leg really hard with her fingers during holding or at other times when I have taken her control away. (a. 7mo, FC)

My son started grinding his teeth as soon as he had top teeth. Yes, he was grinding his FRONT TEETH! It was horrible and there was nothing I could do to stop him. Any of my attempts led to defiant grinding. He would look directly at me (unusual for him) and then grind away. Our dentist said it's a common sign of stress in children. After about a month he stopped doing it consistently but will still revert to this behavior on a "bad" day. (a. 6mo, FC)

Occasionally he would pull his hair and once in a while he would/will hit the couch or his leg (lightly) if we told/tell him no. (a. 7.5mo, FC)

When our son first came home he would pull his hair--at the time we thought was a sign that he was tired but later learned it was stress. Four months later he began to bang his head on the side of the crib or the wall to comfort himself. Since therapy and attachment parenting he has done neither for months. (a. 6mo, FC)

My daughter chews on her fingers (sometimes until they bleed), pulls her hair, and "claws" at her lower lip really hard. The first 2 she does when she's anxious, the last when she's upset/angry. (a. 10.5mo, FC)

After my son had been home a month or so, I noticed that he would scratch his face with his fingernails. He was about 9 months old so it was odd to me that he would do this. I had observed similar scratching behavior in newborns and young infants, but by 9 months most babies have enough awareness of their bodies to not hurt themselves accidentally. These scratches weren't shallow innocent scratches either. Sometimes they were gouges. They almost always happened during his sleep. Once I did see him scratch his face, and the movement was quick, hard and impulsive. People used to ask me all the time how he got the scratches. It wasn't until much later that I realized that scratching his face was a sign of his grief and attachment difficulties. As his attachment to me grew, the scratches disappeared. (a. 7.5mo, FC)

My 21 month old woke up this morning with scratches all over his forehead. When he is anxious he scratches at his head...think like a bear cub pawing at his face and then add attachment anxiousness to it. He was bleeding. I really can't describe it -- his entire forehead is scabby. Update two months later: He STILL has a sore on his head that he picks at overnight. I think we are making progress with the healing, but one bad day/night can change all that. Poor kid. (a. 6mo, FC)
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