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Self-Destructive Behavior in Kids

by Brooke Julia, studioD

Recognizing self-destructive behavior in your child is frightening. A child being preoccupied with hurting himself is clearly suffering. From what, exactly, is the question. As horrible as it is to consider, you may have to think about the major reasons for self-destructive behavior in a child, which are depression and abuse. If you ever suspect your child has been suffering abuse, please call either your child's family doctor or your local child protection agency.

Warning Signs

Self-destructive behavior includes a child intentionally involving himself in activities that could hurt him, or showing a disregard for the possible consequences of dangerous playing, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He may recklessly do things as though tempting the consequences, such as running out into the road without looking for traffic. He may even express a wish to die or show a morbid interest in death.

Other Indications of Trouble

A child who is a victim of abuse or undergoing depression is likely to show more symptoms than just self-destructive behavior, notes HealthyChildren in the article "What to Know about Child Abuse." He may also exhibit signs such as a sudden drop in self-esteem, sudden weight change, showing unusual fear and anxiety in certain situations, expressing negative feelings about himself, complaining of headaches or stomachaches that have no medical cause, behaving with cruelty towards others or animals without remorse, setting fires and lying.

Depression in Children

Depressed children may behave differently than depressed adults, in the article "The Depressed Child" from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology. They likely won't be able to verbalize their feelings as well as an adult; when pressed for answers, they may say they are sad or unhappy. They may isolate themselves from peers, even those whom they enjoyed playing with previously. They may daydream too much or cry a great deal. Their school performance may suffer. They may talk about feeling hopeless and show no energy or enthusiasm towards anything. Depression is real and needs to be taken seriously. In fact, the Boston Children's Hospital reports that as many as 25 percent of children and adolescents have actually considered suicide at some point in their young lives.

Suspected Abuse

It's imperative that you take action if you think your child -- or any child -- is being abused. That you may be wrong should be the least of your worries. Abuse, no matter what form it takes, has long-lasting, damaging effects on a child's emotions, according to the article, "What to Know about Child Abuse" on the HealthyChildren website. Children who are abused may develop violent, antisocial and depressed behaviors. As they get older, they may have trouble maintaining healthy relationships with others, may abuse drugs or alcohol, and have trouble accepting authority. The more swiftly you act, the greater chance you have to save a child from potentially suffering these after effects.

About the Author

Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."

Photo Credits

  • Ryan McVay/Lifesize/Getty Images