Stress, Bipolar and Cutting

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi, im 18 years old. im married to a man who was just released from the military, but we are currently separated. ive been cutting on and off since i was 12. and i recently relapsed. ive been doing it as close as every other day.i was also diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 15. im dealing with the separating, moving, finding work, and starting my buisness. so im guessing maybe its stress? any advice? im trying to stop but part of me doesnt want to stop.

A. Stress seems to be what is motivating you to engage in cutting. Cutting is often used as a coping mechanism but it’s maladaptive. In other words, cutting is an unhealthy way to deal with stress.

Generally speaking, when an individual engages in cutting, it is because they are unaware of or never learned alternative, healthier coping strategies. Cutting, for many teenagers especially, seems to be a common problem-solving approach. It is not an effective problem-solving strategy. An individual who engages in self-injurious behavior is making the situation worse, not better.

There are other reasons why people cut, one of which includes self-punishment: the idea that they deserve to suffer. You stated that part of you “does not want to stop” cutting but you did not provide a reason for what this might be. Perhaps you feel as though you deserve to suffer. Maybe you do it because it provides temporary emotional relief.

You have been cutting “on and off” since you were 12-years old. It may be habitual. Without more information, it’s difficult to explain your behavior.

You are experiencing a great deal of stress. Almost anyone would feel stressed in the midst of so much change. I would recommend seeing a therapist. It is normal to feel stress but it is unhealthy to deal with it by cutting. Healthy stress management strategies exist and an efficient way to learn them would be to attend therapy. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Aug 2012

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2012). Stress, Bipolar and Cutting. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/08/31/bipolar-going-through-separation-self-harm/

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