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Why Do So Many with Bipolar Disorder Self-Injure?

Understanding Self-Injury and Bipolar Disorder


Updated June 13, 2014

Within the ranks of those who have bipolar disorder, this seems to be a common phenomenon. Why? To date, I have not been able to find any specific research dedicated to finding a common cause. However, in my opinion, the duality of self-injury and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder should hardly come as a surprise.

Consider again the list of common psychological characteristics outlined on page 1. This could almost read as a list of symptoms for bipolar disorder (see our Red Flags series) most especially as it relates to those who struggle with dysphoria - that very difficult emotional state which combines the worst features of both mania and depression.

In addition, self-injury can be associated with many other disorders that frequently co-occur with bipolar disorder, including borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and others.

    I do dissociate when I cut but not always.
    I cut to focus my mind when my thoughts are racing.
    I cut to make physical what I feel emotionally.
    I cut to see blood because I really like it.
    I don't like to cut and yet I'm not sure I can give it up.

    ~Alysynn, on our Bipolar Disorder Forum
Regardless of the roots of this problem, regardless of the cause, this is a serious concern for those with this disorder. It is a very painful, very scary, very real situation. For those who fight this overwhelming condition, please take a minute to read the beautiful Words of Encouragement from a member of our forum.

For Further Study

Kharre's Home - offers suggestions for avoiding self-injury behavior and includes a worksheet for when the need arises to go to the hospital.
Secret Shame - top-notch site crammed with information and resources.
Resources - offers info specific to the UK and some in the USA.
Suggestions for Coping - from our community, ideas on how to deal with the urge to do self-harm.

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