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Mental Health (BI-POLAR) and Self Harm

Useful Info. Below

Bipolar Disorder (aka manic depression)


Bipolar is a treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy and behaviour.  It is NOT a character flaw or sign of personal weakness.  Bipolar usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during teen years) although it can start at earlier or later stages of life.  It is as common in men as in women although men tend to begin with a manic episode, women with a depressive episode.  Bipolar is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes.  The illness tends to run in families and it is thought to have a genetic link.  The illness can negatively affect spouses and partners, family members, friends and coworkers.



Most people who have bipolar disorder talk about experiencing "highs" and "lows"-the highs are periods of mania, the lows periods of depression.  These swings can be severe, ranging from extreme energy to deep despair.

Symptoms of Mania-the "highs"


  • Increased physical and mental activity and energy
  • Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence
  • Excessive irritability, aggressive behaviour
  • Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue
  • Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of importance
  • Racing speech, racing thoughts, flight of ideas
  • Impulsiveness, poor judgement, distractibility
  • Reckless behaviour
  • In the most sever cases, delusions and hallucinations


Sympoms of Depression-the "lows"


  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
  • Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Pessimism, indifference
  • Loss of energy, persistant lethargy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness
  • Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawl
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide


The Different Types of Bipolar Disorder:


Bipolar 1 Disorder is characterized by one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (symptoms of both a mania and a depression occuring nearly every day for at least 1 week) and one or more major depressive episodes.  Bipolar 1 disorder is the most severe form of the illness marked by extreme manic episodes.

Bipolar 11 disorder is characterized by one or more depressive episodes accompanied by at least one hypomanic episode.  Hypomanic episodes have symptoms similar to manic episodes but are less severe, but must be clearly different from a person's non-depressed mood.  For some, hypomanic episodes are not severe enough to cause notable problems in social activities or work.  However, for others, they can be troublesome.

Cyclothymic disorder is characterized by chronic fluctuating moods involving periods of hypomania and depression.  The periods of both depressive and hypomanic symptoms are shorter, less severe, and do not occur with regularity as experienced with bipolar 11 or 1.  However, these mood swings can impair social interactions and work.  Many (not all) people with this form develop a more severe form of bipolar illness.


Treatments for Bipolar Disorder


Several therapies exist for bipolar disorder disorder and promising new treatments are currently under investigation.  It can be very difficult to treat.  Your treatment may include medications and talk therapy.


Helping A Friend


Most importantly, friends and family who know someone with bipolar disorder should learn about the illness.  If you are concerned about a friend or family member, help him/her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.  This may involve helping the person to find a doctor or therapist and make their first appointment.  You may also want to offer to attend the first appointment for support.  Encourage the person to stick to treatment.  Keep reassuring the person that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.


Offer emotional support.  This involves understanding, patience, affection, and encouragement.  Listen tentively when they are talking to you.  Resist the urge to act as a therapist or try to come up with answers to the person's concerns.  DO NOT put down feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope.  Invite the depressed person to go out with you (for walks, to the movies, etc.).  Be gently insistant if your first invitation is refused.


NEVER ignore remarks about suicide.  Do not promise confidentiality if you believe someone is close to suicide.  If you think immediate self-harm is possible, contact their doctor or dial 911 immediately.

What is self-injury?
Self injury is any sort fo self-harm which involves inflicting injuries or pain on one's own body.  It can take many forms.
The most common form of self-injury is probably cutting, usually superficially, but sometimes deeply.  Some people burn themselves, punch themselves or hit their bodies against something.  Some people pick their skin or pull out hair.
How Common Is Self-Injury?
It is far more widespread than is generally realized.  All sorts of people self-injure.  Usually they lead "normal" lives (career, family) and there is little outward sign that there is anything wrong.  Self injury seems to be more common in women.  The true extent of the problem is unknown due to feelings of fear and shame which leads to secrecy.
Why Do People Self Injure?
For most people, it is a way of dealing with great emotional pain.  It may be done to distract or numb themselves from problems or feelings they cannot bear to face.
Often people say that self injury helps them to release unbearable tension, which may arise from anxiety, grief or anger.  It puts their pain outside where it feels easier to cope with.  For others, it relieves feelings of guilt or shame.  Somtimes it is a "cry for help", a way of showing that she has suffered and is in pain (even to herself).  It could be about feeling control over something in their life.
  • Self-injury is a failed suicide attempt- self injury is a way of carrying on with life, not of dying.  Injuries are seldom life threatening.
  • Self-injury is "just attention seeking"- self injury is primarily about helping oneself cope with pain.  For some, it is a desperate attmept to show that something is wrong, and attention should be paid to their distress.
  • Self-injury is a sign of madness- self injury is a sign of distress, not madness.  A sign of someone trying to cope with her life as best as they can.
  • A person who self injures is a danger to others- someone who self injures is directing their hurt and anger at THEMSELVES, not at others.  Most would be appalled at the idea of hurting someone else.


What Can Help?  If you want to help someone who self-injures


Naturally, you may feel upset, shocked or angry when someone you care about hurts themselves.  The most you can offer is acceptance and support.  Let your friend know you understand that self-injury is helping them to cope at the moment.  She is not "bad" or "mad" for doing it.  Offer to talk about her feelings, or to call you if s/he is having a difficult time.  But, only offer as much as you can cope with, and DON'T take on the responsibility for stopping him/her from hurting themselves.  Suggest that they go seek professional help from a therapist and offer to attend the first appointment for support.


Alternatives to Self Injury

These are suggestions I've found on other web sites as well as my own.

  • Put elastic bands around your wrists and flick them when you feel like cutting
  • Hold ice in you hands-could also make ice cubes with red food colouring (may help with the need to see blood)
  • Write thoughts and feelings on paper and then rip it up
  • Physical exercise can be helpful
  • Biting nails (but you may not want that new habit)
  • Ripping up paper or fabric or whatever is available
  • Paint nails (especially dark red)

I have collarborated infomation from the internet and my own personal experience for this section.