Friday, December 05, 2008

Self-Embedding Disorder

********** Trigger Alert **********

I have written before about the psychological aspects of Cutting and Self Injury. This psychological phenomenon has been on the rise in recent years, and now the Radiological Society of North America is highlighting a unique trend called Self-Embedding Disorder.

Self-Embedding is different than Cutting and other Self-Injurious behaviors in that patients identified with Self-Embedding Disorder often have suicidal ideation (Most who cut are usually non-suicidal. With cutting, the goal is to inflict physical harm on one's body to relieve emotional distress. Not end life).

Individuals who Self-Embed take the behavior of cutting a step further by introducing an object or objects inside the wound or into deeper soft tissue. Only when the pain becomes excruciating, do such patients find their way to hospital settings or doctor offices. In the reported cases from the RSNA study, 90% of the patients they saw with such injuries were adolescent girls. The photo above, from the RSNA conference, shows three staples in the lower part of the hand of a teenage girl.

If you are self-harming or know someone who is, please consider seeking professional medical and psychological help to aid you in understanding this behavioral disorder. Often, self-harm is a way to express what feels unbearable. Or is unspeakable. A mental health specialist will help you learn ways to find the words, ease the pain and find a sense of well being.


phd in yogurtry said...

Thanks for posting this. This is the first I've heard of SED. It's disturbing to hear the 70% who escalate with each recurrence. Important fact to know.

OHN said...

Very interesting...when reading this I had to wonder if those that have multitudes of piercings (some in what I would think would be VERY uncomfortable places) are included in this group.

beachgirl said...

I would almost put tattoo enthusiasts in this category.
I know several people with many tattoos and they say they are addicted to the pain.

Carrie said...

I read this on some news site earlier this week. I was not aware of the differences between cutting and SED. Has research been done on why it affects mostly girls? (I have my own thoughts...)

The Lone Beader said...

I never understood those who are into that... :/

jumpinginpuddles said...

we know of this one quite well but we would say inject a pin so far and keep pushing it but eventually take it out ourselves, we thankfully never had ot go to hospital, we didnt know this was a name for it we just thought it was another form of SI and one you never talk about, we havent cut for ten months or done this form of self mutiulation for the same amount of time, thanks for writing this article.

jumpinginpuddles said...

We felt we wanted to add soemthings after reading the comemnts we hope this is ok as this is a topic we know so much about and also know how peoples attitudes can stop people seeking help foir this sort of disorder

i wanted to add that as a person who has self injured IT HAS always been about relieving the pain and not of suicide, any form of SI is about taking away the emotional by making it physical, sometimes its much easier to show a scar and say look it did hurt than try and explain emotional scarring, i have talked about our SI many times before even on our recent blog here

As previously talked about SI in any form is a lonely terribly sad road oftne done in secret and in terrible pain, it is an illness like any other and comments like he Lone Breeder only make those who might think of seeking help more fearful in doing so, we have had many doctors who have commented about us perhaps moving toward our wrists and getting ti right, their comments only fuled a need to do exactly that with a attempted suicide usually taking place some time after, my iwsh has always been that those who cut find a new way of saying it hurts but first we need to stop the stigma associated with talking about it.

Sorry but this is something we wished we had had more support for in the early years and we dont want people to suffer as we did.

traci said...

Ouch. I can't imagine. And yet. I can. I used to cut. Then not for years. I had an episode (actually 3) of cutting last spring. I look at the scars every day and many things. Thank you for talking about SED and cutting and well, lots of things. It's comforting in a weird sort of way.

kenju said...

I don't understand how self-inflicted pain can relieve pain. It doesn't make any sense to me.

jumpinginpuddles said...


it relieves the emotional scarring by forcing the mind and body to deal with another issue. We used to say being in physical pain was better than emotional because physical someone can relieve emotional takes much longer. SI is a temporary measure to a long term problem but we know that flashbacks and pain associated with memories can be so hard to deal with that cutting for us was one of the forms we used to back away from the memories at least for that period of time, i.e physical pain needs addressing, it gave us an outlet to stop remembering, it was like anything only short term but sometimes it worked.

Merelyme said...

Oh my...this is new to me. When I was a teen I did some cutting but...I would never have thought of this.

I was wondering if you might have an email address. I am a writer over at Health Central for both their depression and Multiple Sclerosis sites and was wondering if you might wish to do a written interview for me.

Here are my profile pages:

Let me know...

Kahless said...

I had never heard of self embedding disorder before. Thanks for telling us about it.

I have TTM. (I abbreviate cos I am not too comfortable admitting it.) Never knew it had a name until recently.

IntelligentLayPerson said...

Man oh Man... I hope this doesn't become a new Emo trend like cutting.

I am well aware that not all cutting is a trend, but there has been an increase of it and it was definitely an attention getting trend a few years back.

I was sickened by the cutting song on the internet that I heard my kids playing. It showed awful flashes of bloody wrists.

It had simultaneously glorified, and mocked cutting in one big sweep but still the kiddos aren't always sophisticated enough to pick up those things.

kath said...


terrible and sad

I just wanted to stop by and say hello Deb, but I always fine something here to learn... thank you for that.

take care

Angel Chasse said...

Oh my, I had never heard of this. I do interact with several younger members of my family, and I always like to know what is "out there" so I can be vigilant of problems that might come up. Thank you for posting about this. Scary stuff, but good to know of/about I think.


jenji said...

I have never heard of this either, however it really doesn't surprise me at all. I suppose an item that is embedded might be easier to hide from other people, as opposed to a bunch of slices or burns.

It reminded me of a type of cilice, although not so much in repent or atonement, but instead as a way to inflict a contant source of suffering or punishment upon oneself, period; maybe part of the process for these young girls is not only the embedding itself, but in the concealment, the knowing that they have something embedded, while those around them do not know that something is embedded and causing them great pain even as they may be speaking with you?

One must be in a great deal of emotional pain to have to literally impale oneself, yet I might imagine the concealment would further exacerbate a feeling of loneliness and isolation.

I dunno, it just made me think of the monk in The Da Vinci Code for some odd reason.

interesting post, deb.


Lyn said...

I truly believe that binge eating disorder is very similar, mentally, to other self-injuring disorders. When I used to binge, it caused me a great deal of distress physically and emotionally, but it was a way to distract from other emotional pain.

Saur♥Kraut said...

I have always found this to be more attention-getting behavior, and believe that cutting is at times and to a lesser extent.

Obviously this is a masochistic behavior, but if true self-destruction were the goal, then they wouldn't be 'finding their way' to doctors' offices and hospitals.

Jade said...

Wow.. The discomfort of sitting with ones emotions can lead to drastic actions. But it makes sense to continue to take things to the next level to cope. As alwas Deb, great post.

Becca said...

I've never heard of this either.
The video did not want to cooperate with my slow internet here, but I think I got the bulk of it.

I used to be a cutter, but this is very interesting. It's a good thing there is a distinction between SED and SI.

Ms.L said...

My dad does this! I had NO clue other people did this

He has nailed,nails,screws,files etc ect into his knees and feet.
When asked WHY??? He stated that
he thought it would help him,stop himself from running away from home. Something he used to do all the time. My dad is disabled in more ways than one and needs constant supervision,so taking off
like that caused a big fuss, as you can imagine. I'm don't know if that was really the reason and I'm pretty sure he didn't even really know the reason. My was obvious to me anyhow,that he's
always had serious mental health issues.He was more like a child than an adult.

It's weird,after the fourth time he nailed something into his knee he was given a complete mental evaluation and was found to be completely normal.
The doc he said he some quirks but was otherwise fine...??? As his kid,I can state,that man was not fine.
Thank you so much for writing about
this! It's weird,I was just remembering those years;) Good timing!

Teresa said...

Its sad how people do different things when they are so severely depressed.

It amazes me how we tend to deal with our depression and other illnesses in different ways.

50 people in one group could have Bipolar, but not all 50 attempt suicide, not all 50 cut, and not all 50 deal with bipolar the same way.

It truly shows how different we are and being different should allow us to empathize with others, to reach out, and help!

Dr. Deb said...

It is hard for many to understand the issues that underlie self-injury, but I view it as a way of communicating what cannot be said. The injuries are literal and symbolic, and therapy can help those find better ways to deal with intense emotions.

All your comments and sharing has brought much to this post.

Wanda's Wings said...

Why does self harm make you feel better? I do not know but It does Help!

Marj aka Thriver said...

The BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE seems to be dying a slow death, but I'm trying to revive it. Would you submit this post? I think it's such an important aspect of the "Aftermath." Maybe if people know there is help out there for this specific form of SI...

Marj aka Thriver said...

Thanks so much for letting me include this post for the blog carnival. If we raise more awareness about this, more people will know that help is available.

The holiday edition of the blog carnival against child abuse is now up at my blog. Thanks to participants like you, it's a great edition! :)

Anonymous said...

Go and get a copy of a song called, My Worried Mind, by Daniel Moore. It's av anywhere you can buy music, and you can go to

This song helped me through hard times and I hope it does for you as well. I was going through a divorce, and facing all kinds of problems with money. Daniel's song really helped me and I hope it does for you as well.

Megan said...

Oh, dear god. What have teens come to? I'm only 12, and I've been through alot, but I don't even like going to the doctor to get shots! How can teens enjoy doing this to themselves? it's terrible. Honestly, I'm not pointing fingers at the parents, but if the parents were more involved with their kids, I can't help but think, "Would this be happening?" When I was only 7 my closest uncle died. He had diabetes and had a foot amputated. I loved him, and miss him so much, but I'd never do anything like this. My cats have scratched me before, and I've bled. As a matter of fact, I have a scar on my forearm now. I've gotten used to the pain, but I don't like it. Cutting and doung drugs was bad enough, but why do people always have to kick it up a notch? Sometimes I just feel like there must be someone out there in the world, somewhere who can make people stop harming themselves. Why would they want to do this? Ok, they're being emotionally traumatic, but can't they talk with relatives, close friends or teachers, instead of tryng to handle matters privateley with a razor? Now, I'm afraid to have children one day, because of what this world's turning into. I'm not saying that everyone does it, and not alot of people have been reported at hospitals as far as doing it, but why di it in the first place? It makes sense, in a certain way. But, I'd never do it. I mean, sometimes, I get tired of life, but I'd never comit suicide, or hurt myself. If anyone has any more info on this, please post, because I'm interested in this topic.

Amber said...


You sound very intelligent for a 12-year-old by the way. I am 15 years old, and a former cutter. My mom is a therapist, ironically, and my dad is a pilot. I couldn't talk to either because I could always see through my mom's sentences taken straight from her books. And I couldn't talk to my dad because he never lets the matter go if he starts talking. I hate shots. But cutting.. was different somehow. If I could focus on the pain on my arm, then I wouldn't have to think about what was bothering me at the moment. I am a normally quiet person, so talking to anyone is out of the question.. I was in deep trouble when my parents found out that I cutted myself though.. My advice to anyone who is thinking about cutting is.. to not cut. It's harmful in the longrun.

jessica said...

I have never heard of this before but it makes me feel better that I am not the only one who has done it. I broke a needle off in my arm and went to the ER because I couldn't get it back out. The needle passed through my arm and came out on it's own, I guess my body rejected it. I am curious as to the rates of infection in behaviors such as this.