Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Strong urge to cut off hand

This is my first post but I already feel so supported by reading the other posts. I felt so alone until now.

My son is 17 and has struggled with mental illness for the past 2 years. He was recently diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. This has been a particularly bad week because a friend of his committed suicide (a friend with severe depression that he had “made a pact with to not commit suicide”). Whenever my son gets really upset his first instinct is to cut off his right hand. I think he really feels like cutting off his hand will relieve everything he’s feeling. He draws dotted lines on his wrist where he wants to cut. He scratches the line until he bleeds. He hits and bangs his hand into things because he wants it gone. This is the 3rd time this has happened and it usually lasts about a week.

Haven any of you experienced this? Did you find a distraction or anything that helped stop the obsessive thoughts?

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I think it’s time to get professional advice.

hits a vein, yikes! so far he’s never scratched that deep but I’ll keep an eye on it and be watchful for other places. I’m in contact with his doctor about this but never thought about extra meds. Thanks for your advice.

I understand your position - it does sound (and feel) dramatic and I am in in contact with his doctor. Other than treating the anxiety and making sure he’s not home alone when this happens there hasn’t been much we can do besides wait for the urge to go away.

My observation has been that one of our assets as parents is that we do tend to have good instincts about handling our children with mental illness. I know mine tends to repeat the same patterns. What makes me go more on alert is a new behavior.

Did you ever read “I know this much is true” by Wally Lamb? It’s about a man who comes to care for his schizophrenic twin brother after he cut off his own hand.

The imagery of your son doing that is horrific. It must make you so upset.

Maybe cognitive therapy can help him deal with these thoughts?


Also, I’m sure you have already done this: lock up or hide knives and other blades.

Get a copy of the book “I know this much is true” by Wally Lamb

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Is he seeing a therapist? From my world view, when I did self-harm it was really a need to resolve other things in my life even if it was not real. A therapist helped me a great deal.

I will check out the book - thanks for recommendation. I learned a lot about BPD but with this new diagnosis I’m not educated enough yet. I’m still trying to figure out what my son’s best life will look like and how to get him there (and how to keep my job/insurance coverage). Frankly, it’s overwhelming.

Since he was hospitalized a few years ago we’ve been really careful about locking up medication, etc. I moved the big kitchen knives but I don’t know if it’s possible to lock up everything because it’s more than just knives - it’s every sharp surface.

He was in therapy (including CBT) for many years starting in 5th grade when he first said he wanted to kill himself. The last 1.5 year he’s refused to go to therapy. When I would make him go he’d just sit there and not say a word. When we’d leave he’d say, “he’s a nice guy but he can’t help me”. Luckily he has a good relationship with his psychiatrist and she’s done a good job with his medication. I’m trying to find a therapy group with kids his age because I think he’ll get more from that. Any ideas on where to start?

I avoided our county’s mental health services office for years because I thought it would be a clinic with endless waits and poor care - the kind of place people went to who had no other option.

We go there now. He’s well over 18, but they have all types of support groups.

Maybe that’s a good place to start asking?

I think when my son was in school, they tried to start a support group for kids with anxiety, etc, but he wasn’t interested - just like he isn’t really interested now. There was a time when he was desperate for therapy and we must have tried a new one every 6 months. There were some he really liked, other’s he didn’t really care for, but he also felt that none of them could really help him.

I think it’s really, really hard to find a therapist they click with who can actually help.

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My daughter was cutting, once she scratched/cut a word into her arm. She also is schizoaffective disorder. I think the type of drug she has an affects this urge. She started cutting while on prozac and she cut on and off when she was on sereqel, in fact this drug seemed to make her angry and suicidal. Her current mood stabilizer seems better.

I’m so sorry, sounds like a horrible time in your family, I wish you the best.