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Wrist-Cutting Syndrome: The Meaning of a Gesture
Am J Psychiatry 1972;128:1363-1368.
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Private practice and is Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California at Los Angeles, Calif.

1972, American Psychiatric Association

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The phenomenon of repeated wrist cutting in young women, performed in a nonsuicidal manner, was studied through the use of a control group. Histories revealed a significant incidence of early physical illness and surgery and markedly abnormal patterns of menstruation. The subjects interviewed immediately after cutting described an inability to deal with specific feelings, leading to a state of depersonalization. They cut themselves in an effort to reintegrate, and seemed to know exactly what was necessary to accomplish this: seeing a certain amount of blood, feeling a degree of pain, or being able to look inside the gaping wound. The authors relate the wrist-cutting gestures to genital conflict, reactions to helplessness, and an inability to handle aggression.

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