Question

Living With Bipolar Disorder

Why do people with bipolar disorder do things to hurt themselves?

A Answers (1)

  • AJohn Preston, PsyD, Psychology, answered
    Some people who suffer with bipolar disorder experience a rare physical anomaly. When they inflict physical pain on themselves (for example, by burning themselves with a cigarette), they feel an almost instantaneous relief from psychological pain. Typically, this cessation of emotional suffering lasts for about an hour. In addition, they actually feel no physical pain from the burn. This very peculiar phenomenon is seen primarily in those who have bipolar disorder and co-occurring borderline personality disorder.

    Some people also experience a short-lived diminution in suffering from bingeing or reckless behavior. It's important to know that, most times, self-harm behavior is not motivated by the desire to suffer or to punish oneself; rather it reflects desperate attempts to reduce suffering (although, obviously, such attempts can backfire and cause serious injury or death).
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