My five yr old daughter is severely biting herself. She never bites other children. She usually does this while she is playing by herself with her toys (she has a vivid imagination). She started this about two months ago and I have tried to get her to stop. She bites so hard her shins and arms have mutiple bruises on them, which looks like we have beat her. I have tried rewarding her. Once she stopped for a whole week to bake cupcakes, but as soon as she got those cupcakes, her arms were littered with bites that following day. I have tried to ask her why, and she can never really explain to me the reason. If I press her for an answer, she comes up with some imaginative tale....her toys told her she was ugly, or she wanted to go out and pick some flowers while she was playing (though she never asked to do so). I am not sure if she knows why. She is super intelligent. She can already read first readers, has a huge vocabulary, and has not had any major changes. I've let her know how upset it makes me to see the marks. She never screams or yells when she does it, I notice it after the fact. I've talked to her about letting her feelings out and letting people know of she is mad, which she does quiet well when it is time for a bath or bed, but she still butes herself when she is playing. I think she is an overachiever, she gets mad when she can't swim right away or skate right away, and I am sure this is somehow tied into it. I just don't know what else to do, but sliterally stop her from playing out of my sight. She can get lost for a couple hours in imaginative play, complete with characters, and truly seems to enjoy this....but then she comes out of her playtime epsode from her room covered in bitemarks....by the way, if I try to go in her room to play with her during these times...she tells me she needs some privacy and that I am interupting her. Any feedback is appreciated because I am starting to worry something is really wrong with her.
Hi, Paulette. The short answer is yes, your daughter should be seen by a professional, someone who specializes in working with kids. There are a number of possible explanations for self-harming behavior, and you need a formal evaluation to identify the most likely cause -- which, by the way, need not have anything to do with mental illness. Based just on your description I'm guessing she has some anger she doesn't know what to do with, and so turns it against herself both mentally ("her toys told her she was ugly" and "she is an overachiever" both suggest a problem with self-acceptance) and physically. Your best bet in the short term is to not overreact to the biting -- it's an emotional problem, not a discipline problem, and I'm sure she has no idea why she does it. Just remain as accepting and reassuring as you can until you can have someone talk to her.
Thank you so much for your reply. I have worked in a preschool for over two years and have never seen this type of behavior, so I guessed her problem was bigger than I could handle. Usually, if a child does have some self inflicting harm, they stop after they realize this hurts. She, however, is different. She isn't doing this to get her way, its during play, and she will not stop...though I know the bites must hurt. I am usually the one assuring parents that there is nothing wrong with getting their child help in the form of speech therapy or for some extreme behavior. Yet, I now find myself not being able to help my own child and wanting to pretend this is behavior could be normal. Thanks again. Hopefully, I will be able to find someone to help her.
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