FOOD INTOLERANCE NETWORK FACTSHEET
Self-harm (Deliberate Self-Harm, DSE) is defined as intentionally injuring your own body without suicidal intent, most commonly by cutting, hitting or burning.
Although previously considered to be associated with severe mental illnesses, the rate of self-harm behavior is now known to be more common among the general population and seems to be increasing in younger generations. A recent study found that about one third of college students have engaged in some form of self-harm behavior in their lifetime. It has generally been suggested that self-harm is related to childhood abuse but some studies have not found that link.
From our point of view, self-harm is just one of many similar childhood problems such as head-banging, restless legs syndrome and asthma that have increased since the 1970s. In our experience, self-harm can be a side-effect of both medications and food chemicals and can improve dramatically on the elimination diet.
Effects of medications
In 2003, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) set up an expert panel to review the safety and efficacy of antidepressants such as Prozac (known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs), starting with their use in under-18s. By December, it had banned all the SSRIs except Prozac for this age group, citing poor evidence of efficacy and a raised risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
From the Medical Journals
Klonsky ED, Oltmanns TF, Turkheimer E. Deliberate self-harm in a nonclinical population: prevalence and psychological correlates. Am J Psychiatry 2003;160(8):1501-8. free full text at www.pubmed.com for an overview of self-harm
There are no reports in the medical literature of a link between self-harm and food intolerance.
 Mixed depressive disorder with anxiety and obsessive ruminations including self harm due to salicylate sensitivity (March 2006)
My 6 ½ year old son, Tim (not his real name) is currently undergoing investigation of mixed depressive disorder with anxiety and obsessive ruminations. We have used failsafe in the past with one of our other children, but had not ever thought of foods being linked to Tim’s mood problems. When you mention a “gifted and depressed” child at your recent talk my ears immediately pricked up and took note. Tim has been identified as highly gifted and everyone has been saying that is the cause of his problems but I have always felt there was something else underlying that was contributing. We will be contacting our GP today and hopefully starting the elimination diet as soon as possible.
2 weeks later…
Just wanted to let you know, we are all amazed at our son's improvement over the last two weeks. I have been in contact with the dietitian you recommended, she is lovely and very supportive. We will be starting the "proper" 3 week elimination diet on the weekend after the school camp (couldn't manage that one!) But I wanted to tell you also that even my GP has taken to your book for herself and her family. She is raving about it!
2 months later …
Since starting the elimination diet Tim has not self harmed once! He is much calmer and has noticed this in himself. He no longer seems to be as restless and has been falling asleep easily at a reasonable time in the evenings. We started with the salicylate challenge this week and there seemed to be no reaction, until day 5/6 when we started to notice his behaviour was getting worse. We will stop this challenge tonight and wait to try some other groups. His GP and Clinical Psychologist are both thrilled with the change as well! …
One week later ….
After I emailed you we finally had the BIG reaction we were looking for. It happened on Day 7 of the salicylate challenge - we had already stopped the challenge that morning. Tim went to bed as normal then began to write swear words all over his bed, his sheets and his body. ("I was angry with you because I couldn't fall asleep") This is the behaviour and obsessive ruminations this poor boy was experiencing on a daily basis before the elimination diet, which we have not seen until this challenge.
© Sue Dengate update September 2006