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Oighearaois Offline
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Unhappy Help Stop Boyfriend from Biting Himself - September 29th 2011, 03:36 AM

This thread has been labeled as triggering, particularly on the subject of self harm, by the original poster or by a Moderator. The contents of this thread might therefore not be suitable for certain sensitive users. Please take this into consideration before continuing to read.

I've noticed my boyfriend biting the side of his finger at random times. It never leaves a mark and I can't tell how hard he bites but when I tell him to stop it, but he doesn't imediatly. I think that was because I had been confused and wasn't being serious enough when I told him to stop. Anyway I didn't think too much of it, mainly because it really didn't look like he was biting so it just seemed like a strange habit that would randomly pop up.
Last month I noticed a big mark on his arm that was obviously from him biting his own arm, hard. It had been three or four hours since he had done it, he hadn't drawn blood, but it still looked really red. I talked to him about it and he had said that he had been really angry at his parents but he didn't want to lash out at them or do something that would worsen the situation so he bit his arm. I made him promise to never do that again and he said he wouldn't. I really believe he means that but if something makes him really angry or really upset, I'm afraid he might bite himself again.
I was with him in his house one time when he got angry. His parents were saying from the other room what he had done wrong with the chores and how he should have done better. Honestly they were'nt being really cruel or anything but I could tell it really bothered him. He didn't bite, like he had promised, but he made fists and dug his nails into his palms. I calmed him down made him losen his hands enough to make it so he was holding my hands in his own, so he had to keep them looser because he didn't want to hurt mine.
Is the fist thing okay for him to do even though his nails dig into his palm?I don't really think it is but second oppinions are always good. Any suggestions on what I could do to help him with his anger and biting? He said he wouldn't do anything like what I mentioned recently, but again, if he gets angry enough... I'd like to know how I can help the biting not happen.
Sorry it's so long but thank you so much for reading! please comment, even if you don't really have a full answer trust me I appriciate it!

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Dr.Bobby Offline
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Re: Help Stop Boyfriend from Biting Himself - September 29th 2011, 04:07 PM

The issue here is his inability to manage strong emotion, primarily anger. So, although clenching his fists is an improvement over biting, the underlying problem isn't being addressed.

The other issues are the expectations you have here, primarily of ability. His, for being able to 'Stop' this (on command from you!), and your abilities to effectively control his behavior (or help him control it), as well as your ability to tolerate it. That's a lot, you might need to adjust downwards your expectations.

At the very least, it's probably not a good idea to just tell him to stop. In addition to the fact that no one really likes to be told what to do (even though he might agree), that control is elusive, that's the problem. So, although you're undoubtedly well intentioned, the effect is that you're reminding him of an inability, as well as coming across as potentially not understanding (and being a bit of a nag). Whatever the issue there is for him is pretty significant, and he might need more than you can provide here.

So, acknowledging the behavior and then letting him know how difficult it is for you to witness, and feeling so powerless yourself, are good ways to start. Then (and this is a big one) ask him what you can do, what would be helpful for him. A lot of people leave that part out, they make observations (like the self harm), and they advise the person to stop.....the obvious things........but don't take into consideration lack of ability as the culprit. What's helpful is to shift the emphasis from the obvious, to something that both of you can do to potentially address the situation. It's like mentioning to someone that they cannot ride a bike, but it would be nice if they did.

When people struggle with their own demons, what they really need is a sense of support and to develop a sense of control. The best way to accomplish that is to withhold your own sense of anxiety/frustration, and let them tell you what you can do to help, and then do it. Shift the focus away from you, onto them, and work collaboratively on concrete things you can do to help him (hopefully) achieve the obvious.

You might not be able to 'fix' this, (or get him to), but you can take smaller steps that will give him some of the tools to address it himself.

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arm, biting, boyfriend, concerned, scratching, stop

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