Thursday, February 9, 2012
9 year old bites self and bangs head
I have come across your website with great interest and relief, as my 9-year old son is, I believe experiencing anger overload. Until this evening I had not managed to find any information about this age child having such a problem. Only younger children or teens with such anger and outbursts. My son has up to 3 or 4 episodes in a bad week, sometimes twice in a day, and gets so angry for no reason that he ends up turning his anger on himself and biting his arms/hands/legs, or banging his head on the wall or floor. It is very distressing and my husband and I do not know what to do for the best for him.
He is bright, normally a lovely calm and interesting boy, but when he feels angry or unfairly treated, he can react in this way, and he’s getting too strong for us to hold him and stop him from hurting himself.
Hi, While these seem to be instances of anger overload you are describing, you would also want to go to a mental health professional to rule out other possible co-existing problems, like a mood disorder or autistic spectrum disorder. There are many books about these problems, and you can also read more about various co-existing disorders in my book on defiant behavior (see link in photo above). Once you have ruled these out, then the exercises in my anger overload manual will be of help to you. The final version of the manual should be ready in a couple of months.
A few ideas to get you started: Chart the instances during the week when your son has anger overload. You want to see if there are any patterns that would explain some of the situations when he has an outburst. Then you can try to use this information to catch the overload early (if possible) and use distraction (see earlier blog entries about how to do this) or plan to avoid the triggering event in the future. Develop a chill place in your house (see earlier blog items) which your son could use when he is getting agitated.
Once your son is in full overload, it will be hard to interrupt the outburst. But you want to make sure he is safe, so if you can restrain him if he is hurting himself or someone else, then do so. If the head banging is severe or biting is severe, can you safely bear hug him or restrain him on the floor? You may need help depending on how much your child resists.
You also can begin to make him aware of anger overload and how to work on it by using yourself as a model (see previous entries) and by labeling the level of anger (see earlier entries). Once you are able to catch it earlier before total overload, there are other cognitive strategies that you can use, including developing a catch phrase to re-direct his thinking. Catch phrases are short sayings used to remind the child that there are other points of view, other than his current view (which is leading to his extreme disappointment). This will be fully explained in the manual.
I hope this helps you get on track. I will be leaving town for 10 days, but will try to respond afterward if you have more questions, David Gottlieb, Ph.D.