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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1989 Mar;79(3):283-9.

Female habitual self-mutilators.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Missouri-Columbia.


Data are presented on 240 female habitual self-mutilators. The typical subject is a 28-year-old Caucasian who first deliberately harmed herself at age 14. Skin cutting is her usual practice, but she has used other methods such as skin burning and self-hitting, and she has injured herself on at least 50 occasions. Her decision to self-mutilate is impulsive and results in temporary relief from symptoms such as racing thoughts, depersonalization, and marked anxiety. She now has or has had an eating disorder, and may be concerned about her drinking. She has been a heavy utilizer of medical and mental health services, although treatment generally has been unsatisfactory. In desperation over her inability to control her self-mutilative behavior this typical subject has attempted suicide by a drug overdose.

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