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

John Preston, PsyD
Psychology
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).
Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner (The New Harbinger Loving Someone Series)

More About this Book

Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner (The New Harbinger Loving Someone Series)

Maintaining a relationship is hard enough without the added challenges of your partner’s bipolar disorder symptoms. Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder offers information and step-by-step advice...

Continue Learning about Living With Bipolar Disorder

Living With Bipolar Disorder

Living With Bipolar Disorder

To manage your bipolar disorder on a daily basis, it is essential that your keep your therapy appointments and take your medications as prescribed. If you experience side effects that you find intolerable, discuss them with your d...

octor. It’s also important to live a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, plenty of sleep and a nutritious diet to avoid other health risks associated with bipolar. Take steps to reduce stress and surround yourself with supportive friends and family who can intervene during manic episodes. When it’s well treated, bipolar disorder should not prevent you from having an enjoyable and successful life.
More

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.