Self Injury,Cutting – WOMEN in RECOVERY

Self Injury~Cutting

Bipolar Disorder and Self-Injury

Sometimes people with bipolar disorder, depression, and other mood disorders have episodes when they feel extremely sad, hopeless, anxious, or confused. When these emotions get too intense, the person may harm themselves with acts of self-injury.

Self-injury, often referred to as cutting, self-mutilation, or self-harm, is an injurious attempt to cope with overpowering negative emotions, such as extreme anger, anxiety, and frustration. It is usually repetitive, not a one-time act.

What are some forms of self-injury?

Cutting the skin with a sharp object is one form of self-injury. Other forms of self-injury may include burning, scratching, hitting/bruising, biting, head-banging, or picking at skin. Sometimes pulling out hair is a form of self-injury.

Some people who engage in self-injury may do so methodically or regularly, almost as if self-injury were a ritual. Other people may use self-injury impulsively — at the spur of the moment — as a way to get immediate release for built-up tension. They may use self-injury either as a way to regulate intense emotions or as a distraction technique.

No matter how self-injury is used, it is an unhealthy and dangerous act and can leave deep scars, both physically and emotionally.

Why do people engage in self-injury?

Just as there are healthy ways to relieve stress, such as exercise, there are also unhealthy ways to cope with negative feelings. For some people, self-injury is a coping mechanism.

Along with self-injury, some people with bipolar disorder or other mood disorders may be more apt to abuse drugs or alcohol than people without mood disorders. Some experts believe that risky behaviors are related to the patient trying to self-medicate the various negative moods, believing that alcohol or illicit drugs may help ease the pain of depression or ease the elation of mania.

But like drugs and alcohol, self-injury provides only a quick fix. That’s why it’s so important that those with bipolar disorder (or any mood disorder) talk with their doctors about appropriate treatment to help modulate the moods appropriately and without injury.

Can self-injury lead to suicide?

Suicide is a major risk for people with bipolar disorder. Between 25% and 50% of those with bipolar disorder attempt suicide, and 15% die by suicide. But people who engage in self-injury to get rid of bad feelings are not necessarily suicidal.

Though self-injury and suicide are different, self-injury should not be brushed aside as a small problem. The very nature of self-injury is physical damage to one’s body. It’s important for the self-injurer to seek help.

What are warning signs of suicide with bipolar disorder?

  • Warning signs of suicide may include:
  • Talking about suicide
  • Always talking or thinking about death
  • Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out
  • Worsening depression
  • A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, like driving through red lights
  • Losing interest in things one used to care about
  • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • Hoarding pills
  • Unusual interest in nationally publicized disasters or suicides

How does someone with bipolar disorder stop self-injury?

If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, it’s vital that you work with your doctor to self-manage your illness. By keeping your moods in check, you can avoid overwhelming feelings of sadness or anxiety that may lead to destructive behaviors like self-injury. Some ways to keep your bipolar disorder managed include:

  • Seeing your doctor regularly for mental health checkups
  • Taking your prescribed bipolar medications every day whether or not you have symptoms
  • Staying away from alcohol and illicit drugs that may trigger mood swings
  • Finding a therapist you trust and working with this professional on your coping skills. Some types of behavior therapy can help you learn to deal with emotional distress in healthy ways.
  • Following up with your doctor’s recommendations on having lab tests
  • Joining a support group and strengthening your family and friend support network

If you feel your bipolar symptoms are worsening, contact your doctor immediately. Sometimes a change in medication and/or dosage is all that’s needed to modulate moods.

Is Your Teenager Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder commonly begins to show itself in the late teens. Bipolar disorder in the teenage years is serious; it’s often more severe than in adults. Adolescents with bipolar disorder are at high risk for suicide.

Unfortunately, bipolar disorder in teens frequently goes undiagnosed and untreated. Partly, this is because while symptoms may begin in adolescence, they often don’t meet the full criteria for bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens may be unusual — not a straightforward “manic depression.” ADHD, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse are often also present, confusing the picture.

Some symptoms that suggest a teenager might have bipolar disorder are:

Anger and aggression
Easy tearfulness, frequent sadness
Impulsive behavior
Confusion and inattention

* Other potential symptoms include feeling trapped, overeating, excessive worry, and anxiety.

It’s important to remember that these symptoms can occur in many healthy teens and adults. The time for concern is when they form a pattern over time, interfering with daily life. Children with symptoms that suggest bipolar disorder should be seen by a psychiatrist or psychologist.


***warning graphic images*** I made this video as a personal project to help me cope and work through my battle with self-injury. It is a mix of poetry, music, and imagery that conveys the deep impact this behavior has had on my life. I am happy to report that as of 7 March 2009 I will have been SI FREE!!!

I appreciate any commentary, and I also hope that my video can inspire others to seek help or at least know that they’re not alone.

Tenderness Survives

From a Teen-ager’s perspective:

Source: WebMD

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