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#494914 - 03/04/08 04:31 PM Psychology of Self-Mutilation

Mods please move this to the appropriate area.

I want to congratulate everyone for their efforts in helping Missy and her glider, and I want to congratulate her for making a tough decision. When I read that thread, I decided to write an article about the psychology of self mutilation. I am an expert in the area of psychology, and it is not difficult to translate between glider psychology and human. Now, there are three factors that could contribute to self mutilation. These are:
1) Genetics
2) Environment
3) diet, which is a part of environment, but will be discussed separately.

A self-mutilation problem may stem from several genetic factors. There may be an inherited disease or defect which causes an imbalance in the gliderís brain, thus paving the way for self-mutilation. Also, it can be an inherited trait. Always check the parents before buying a joey, and, if possible, check as much of the lineage as you can. This goes for any trait, from mutilation to defects.

This is a big one. There are several environmental factors which may influence your gliderís sm:
Seeing another glider who does it (seems silly, but Iíve actually heard of this happening)
Not getting along with cagemate/injured by cagemate
Pain, and the desire to escape that pain (chewing off injured leg)
Stressors, such as being cooped in a small cage, being isolated, etc.
And diet, which will be discussed next.

Many of you may be wondering why I am stressing diet apart from environment. It is because this is an often overlooked aspect of any animalís psychological, not just physical, health. The brain works in such a way that everything, ideally, is balanced. There is no predisposed emotion for the animal to feel. However, with a poor diet, and a dearth of vitamins and minerals (or excess of them), the balance falters, and you have an animal with low levels of necessary chemicals in the brain. When this happens, you can get a glider obsessed with mutilating itself.

If Iíve forgotten anything, or you have anything to add, please feel free.

#494927 - 03/04/08 04:48 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

My major was supposed to be psychology in college,until I got pregant..anywho.

Thank you for bringing that to everyone's attention.

I was afraid that Greta may start to self-mutilate after I got her. (You can read on her situation in Breeding and Babies).

She was in a hamster cage with no-human contact (isolation).

She is doing well, keeping a close eye on her.

She had the above mentioned factors except for the genes part, because I have no idea where she came from.

Her enviroment and diet alone could have made her SM, but she didn't and hasn't thus far. Hoping for the best.

It makes you stop and think, that's for sure.

Thank you for sharing that knowledge with us and yes they are like people in more than one way.

#494970 - 03/04/08 05:31 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]
LSardou Offline
Glideritis Anonymous

Registered: 03/01/06
Posts: 21060
Loc: Kansas
clap Beautifully written!!! Thank you....

#495035 - 03/04/08 06:33 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: LSardou]

Thank you. ELRS, I hope your glider continues to improve.

Just as a side note, if anyone needs to PM me about why their glider does something that they do, feel free. I have a background in many fields, including animal behavioral psychology.

#495045 - 03/04/08 06:41 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

You are very welcome.
Me too! I hope she learns to love me as much as I love her.

It is very good that people take the time to learn about such things (as myself), because heaven knows I would not know half the stuff I know today if I hadn't found this place.

People NEED to understand that they are not some cute little animal that can be thrown into a hamster cage, fed a ridiculous diet that isn't even fit for human consumption and water given maybe every 2-3 days. Without any toys for brain stimulation or to keep themselves entertained, what else is there to do? I think I'll start to chew my toes off.

These are not animals to be taken lightly, they need love and they will return it 10 fold.

They are like babies. Do you think I could take my daughter lock her in her room and let's say for instance feed her cat food every day and maybe some water? Without tv or any toys? I DO NOT think so. It is the same thing.
Awww they are so cute, let's get one. Then they end up in a resuce somewhere and rehomed again again.

Sorry to vent. You brought out my dark-side.;)

#495048 - 03/04/08 06:42 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

wow you are a very good helping hand thanks for the info

#495118 - 03/04/08 07:34 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

Thanks, stitchndes. I love what I do, and I love helping people and animals, so I think this board will be a perfect way for me to get all three out of my system. ;-)

#495148 - 03/04/08 08:05 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

Originally Posted By: Katala
Also, it can be an inherited trait. Always check the parents before buying a joey, and, if possible, check as much of the lineage as you can.

Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. It's very informative and well-written.

I do have a question about the part that I quoted. I am asking out of honest ignorance dunno do we have evidence that if a parent has a history of self-mutilation, that the babies are also at increased risk? I only ask because I have NEVER heard of this before.

It absolutely makes sense, as most behaviors have a genetic component and an environmental one...and babies could both inherit a genetic predisposition AND learn certain behaviors or tendencies from their parents...

...I just hadn't seen this before, so I wanted to double you have numbers/evidence/data on this yourself, or has this been run by any members in the community who have a lot of experience with SM? I just want to make sure we aren't making assumptions, because this statement has *very* important ramifications for those in the breeding community.

If this is substantially backed by data, I hope it's something that breeders are taking into consideration when deciding which gliders to breed. I think that temperament and behavior are very important (but sometimes sadly overlooked) factors when running a breeding program.

Thanks so much again for doing this, and I'm excited to see others' ideas about the genetics aspect of SM.

#495206 - 03/04/08 08:54 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

I have not run into this numerous times. In fact, there were only two situations in which I found this to be the case in gliders. We must also take into account that if the parents and children are in the same environment, the risk may not be due to genetics.

But let me tell you why I believe it is so, in both humans and gliders. The genes carry important data which determines our predisposition, our health, and the way our body functions. If there is a defect in the genes, there may be health ramifications. If the parent passes on their genes, and has a chemical imbalance which diet has not affected, then the gene which leads the brain to create imbalanced portions is passed on. Human studies have proven a genetic link between related people in predisposition. I believe that gliders are sufficiently complex creatures for this to still hold true.

As for where I have seen it, only one of the two cases had a perfect situation for me- the mother was an sm-er, and was in a rather comfortable situation. The joey was removed at an early age and hand-raised, which does not usually have ill effects on the joey, long term. A friend of mine received the joey at 8 wks. and later found her to also SM. My friend took good care of the joey, it had a friend, and was in a great situation for it. However, it still SMed for no apparent reason. When I found this out, I began to transfer my knowledge of human SM to glider SM, and found that it made perfect sense.

Thank you for pointing this out, as I should've elaborated earlier. It was a good find. ;-)

#495216 - 03/04/08 09:00 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]
GliderGuy93 Offline
Glider Lover

Registered: 06/28/07
Posts: 397
Loc: Morristown, TN
Thanks for putting this together. It will help many other people to come.

Sydney Victoria
:grey: :grey:

#495519 - 03/05/08 07:02 AM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: GliderGuy93]
sugarglidersuz Offline
Glideritis Anonymous

Registered: 08/28/04
Posts: 14788
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Very well written clap I would just like to add that there is also a fourth factor that may lead to Self Mutilation... Health Although you briefly touched on this subject under the heading of "Environment" you didn't really quite cover it. A glider's health can lead to Self Mutilation as well and it's not necessarily just due to pain. For example, I have a glider who was a chronic Self Mutilator for almost three years. Multiple vet visits yielded no cause for her SM until she was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism (only the second glider ever diagnosed with this). She has been on thyroid-replacement therapy since October and has not Self Mutilated in all that time! The other glider who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (Jen/Xfilefan's Riker) was also a chronic Self Mutilator. Like my Mareki, he has not Self Mutilated since starting the thyroid-replacement therapy. This shows that there is definitely a link between gliders with hypothyroidism and the Self Mutilation. If it is true for this particular health issue, then I am sure that it would be safe to hypothesize that other health issues may be a factor as well.
Suz Enyedy
:bb: Carina & Coobah
Allira & Gizmo :grey:
:grey: Picasso, Trinity Joy & Luna
:rbridge: DaisyMae; Darwin; Mareki; Mambo; Pika; Cricky; Reggie & Bobo, Pepe & Bittah

Suz' Sugar Gliders

#495987 - 03/05/08 03:43 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: sugarglidersuz]

Very true, thank you, sugarglidersuz. I was attempting to cover most diseases under genetics, because I am not a medical doctor and am not familiar enough with diseases to confidently tell other people about them. I have found that most health problems spring from either genetics or environment, though.

#496312 - 03/05/08 09:14 PM Re: Psychology of Self-Mutilation [Re: ]

As a side note, the imbalance of hypothyroidism can cause problems similar to this in humans, also. It's amazing how similar we all are.

Anything else anyone would like to add?


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