Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Self injury

For just about my whole life, I've suffered from an OCD related form of self injury: dermatillomania. Basically, I can't help but pick at my skin. One of the biggest fears I had in having my kids is that they would have this problem, too. It still weighs heavily on  my mind. I am careful to monitor myself when the kids are around so I don't do it when they can see. It's difficult.

With that being said, Stewie has displayed various traits of self injury in his short life span. For a long time, he would scratch at his skin (nothing there to scratch at, as far as I know) and cause wounds to appear. Fortunately, he didn't mess with them after they were there, outside of just scratching in general. He would scratch mostly at his arms and legs, and sometimes his back, butt, and stomach.

We had to explain to his preschool teachers that the scratching is likely caused by anxiety and not other factors such as laundry detergent or allergens. They still pulled me aside after seeing the physical parts. They realized it wasn't child abuse when they saw him scratching on his own, which was especially bad when he first started school. He would scratch when he was mad or frustrated or if he wanted to get a rise out of us. I admit that it worked. It wasn't something we could just ignore. I am happy to say that since we moved out of our previous living situation, he has ceased with the scratching. I have tried experimenting with the laundry detergent and fabric softener to see if he would break out and/or start itching, and he hasn't. So I think the scratching was a result of stress and anxiety.

These days, he bangs his head on things. It's frustrating for us to see. He lays on his back on the hardwood floors and hits the back of his head. Or if he wants to do it in the living room, he'll go to where the front door is and hit his head on the uncarpeted floor there, or on the carpeted stairs. He has given himself bumps and bruises on his forehead, which makes me feel like a bad parent because I can only imagine what other people think, and I wait for some child protection agency to come and investigate. I would only hope that they know he's been diagnosed with autism and that they can determine that we don't hurt him. It's stressful to be constantly concerned about what others think, yet I cannot stop.

I just don't know what to do about his head banging. It bothers me to see him do it, and I have to intervene when he's going to do it on the walls (which is rare, thankfully) because I don't want him disturbing the neighbors. I'm open to suggestion.

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