We talk to a psychologist who specializes in teen behavior to find out what it is and what to look out for.
Parents everywhere are alarmed by a new study that claims more and more teens are embedding foreign objects into their bodies as a way to cope with psychological issues. The findings were revealed at the Radiological Society of North America meeting in Chicago yesterday, where Dr. William Shiels reported that more and more teens -- especially girls -- are forcing objects like paper clips, glass rocks and crayons, under their skin as a way to cope with disturbing feelings. "It's cutting gone to the next level," Shiels says
But momlogic has learned that this is thankfully not something most parents will ever have to worry about. Psychologist Dr Lisa Boesky wants parents to understand that this is a very extreme disorder. "This is not new," she says. "I have been dealing with people who do this since 1995 in juvenile jails and prison. It's very rare in the public arena. Teens who embed typically have major mental health disorders and frequently have histories of severe sexual abuse or trauma."
But teens who do embed objects into their bodies almost always start with the less dangerous and more common forms of self injury like cutting or burning. Dr Lisa adds that for troubled teens, this behavior can escalate over months and years into the more dangerous acts like forcing foreign objects under their skin. Dr. Lisa adds that it is a very difficult disorder to identify as those who do it tend to hide it. But there are some warning signs to watch out for.
Warning Signs for Embedding:
• a teen has repeated infections
• they claim to have "accidentally gotten something sharp stuck under their skin"
Superficial cutting and burning are more common among teens and are also often difficult to identify. But there are warning signs to look out for here as well.
Warning Signs for Self Injury:
• your teen is wearing turtlenecks or long sleeves in warm weather
• you are finding household objects like forks, pens or staples with blood on them
• you are finding bloody tissues in their trash cans
• your teen is wearing orange or orange and white bracelets, which cutters use to identify themselves to each other
• your teen is extremely defensive when you comment on marks or scars on their body
• your teen is spending time with another self injurer
If you are concerned that your teen may be exhibiting this kind of behavior, Dr. Lisa says it is vital that you keep your cool and speak to them in a calm, non-judgmental tone. She adds, "This is not a suicide attempt, even for embedders. This is a coping skill that helps them deal with strong and overwhelming emotions -- it calms them down and gives them a sense of relief or release."
If you are concerned about your child's behavior, Dr. Lisa says you should seek out professional advice. You can also learn more about these disorders in her DVD, "The Secret Cut: Understanding Self Injury and Teens" as well as her book, "When To Worry: How To Tell If Your Teen Needs Help - and what to do about it."