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Shari Vialpando/AP

Self-Embedding a Growing Trend Among US Teens

December 04, 2008 01:12 PM
by Lindsey Chapman
Physicians are learning how to manage a self-injury practice among teens that was identified as a problem just two months ago.

Self-Embedding Disorder on the Rise

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Researchers were reviewing a new method of removing objects accidentally embedded in a person’s body when they realized that youth in America, particularly adolescents, were engaging in a new form of self-mutilation.

Self-embedding disorder
is a condition in which a teen, generally a girl, intentionally inserts objects like paperclips, wood, glass or even stone in their flesh, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Doctors at an Ohio hospital identified 10 patients who self-embedded during the last three years; one had embedded 11 objects in her body, the paper reported.

“It’s cutting gone to the next level,” Dr. William Shiels, a radiologist who helped report on these findings, told Reuters.

Before 2005, self-embedding wasn’t a problem physicians had dealt with. Shiels said researchers didn’t anticipate finding this problem, but now that they have, other hospitals have begun reporting self-embedding occurrences.

A national registry has been created to start tracking cases.

Why would someone self-embed?

Those who cut themselves or self-embed are not always suicidal, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Terry Ciszek, director for outpatient services at Linden Oaks Hospital in Illinois, explained to the Chicago Tribune that “Self-injury is seen as a way to express emotion and sometimes to relive the trauma that might have taken place. We often see that the physical pain is an expression of and/or an avoidance of the emotional pain.”

As Dr. Shiels told Reuters, “The consistent theme is one of being angry and upset. Some of the patients have had very recent sexual abuse encounters, and they feel no one is taking them seriously.”

Protecting teens who self-mutilate means parents need to be especially aware of their children. WebMD spoke with Dr. Donald Frush of Duke University, who said, “If your child has inflammation and swelling due to a foreign body, and there's no clear reason, you might want to have a conversation with her doctor."

“Parents need to recognize the problem and get their child into therapy quickly,” Shiels said to WebMD. “We, as parents, severely underestimate the pain of adolescence, particularly in girls.”

The Chicago Tribune reported that medical professionals need to gather more information before they know who is at greater risk for self-embedding: teens living at home or in another arrangement such as foster care.

Dr. Elizabeth Berger, of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said parents “should know that most teens do not injure themselves.”

Reference: Mental health resources

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