Self-Soothing Bipolar Disorder Pain the Right Way

Self-Soothing Bipolar Disorder Pain the Right Way

Knowing how to self-soothe is important in the face of bipolar disorder pain. Even if you’re not in pain today, likely you will be at some point in the future so self-soothing techniques matter a lot. Some people find positive self-soothing techniques for bipolar pain easy to employ while many others find only negative ones. Here are some negative and positive self-soothing ideas for bipolar pain.

Negative Self-Soothing Techniques for Bipolar Pain

Negative self-soothing techniques are what psychologists term “maladaptive behaviors.” Basically, it’s anything you do that harms you to soothe yourself.

I know why people have negative self-soothing techniques for bipolar pain. Well, there’s more than one reason, but I know one major reason is people just want the pain to stop by any means necessary. They are at the end of their rope and they can’t live in that severe, seemingly-endless pain a moment longer. I know what happens is even though negative self-soothing techniques are against all of our better judgement, they happen because we can be the picture of desperation.

Another reason people use negative self-soothing techniques is because they just don’t know a better way. If you only know one way to soothe yourself because of bipolar pain, you’re going to use that way no matter what because to you, there is nothing else.

Examples of Negative Self-Soothing Techniques for Bipolar Pain

There are many negative self-soothing techniques but the big ones that come to mind for me are:

  • Using alcohol/drugs
  • Self-harm
  • Eating too much unhealthy food
  • Taking it out on others

Now, in your right mind, you likely know all of these things are bad. Using alcohol and drugs, for example, interacts with pretty much every medication and messes up your brain further – bad. Self-harm – the problem is in the title. Eating too much unhealthy food tends to worsen one’s health and when combined with antipsychotics, which many of us take, is a recipe for disaster. And, of course, taking it out on others isn’t fair, right or something that anyone deserves and doing it can and will harm your relationships with others.

Why Do We Use Negative Self-Soothing Techniques in Bipolar Management?

All that seems like something to avoid, yes?

Yes, absolutely. But many, if not all of us, employ one or more of these negative self-soothing techniques occasionally, or even regularly, because of one thing – they work.

There’s a reason why people don’t sit down and eat of bowl of broccoli when they’re feeling bad – it doesn’t work to make you feel better. Eating a bowl of ice cream does.

Now, I could go into the neurobiology of why this is but, in the end, it just doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that some things fire the pleasure centers of our brain while others do not. Broccoli doesn’t. Ice cream does.

Additionally, when in severe pain, you’re not really in your right mind so the consequences of negative self-soothing may not be obvious or may be overlooked. Pain just does that to people.

Positive Self-Soothing Techniques for Bipolar Pain

Self-soothing is important for all, but self-soothing for bipolar pain is critical. Learn about how to positively self-soothe in bipolar.So the goal, then, is to replace negative self-soothing techniques for positive ones. This is considerably easier said than done, I know. When you’re in the habit of turning to something that works for you, like, say, drinking, it’s hard to break that habit and replace it with one that won’t cause the negative effects of that self-soothing technique. Even if you realize that drinking/drugging/self-harm/eating crap/being horrible is bad for you, it can still be incredibly difficult to stop it and move to other self-soothing techniques.

The first step is realizing you’re in pain, you need to self-soothe and self-soothing is normal and necessary. No need to beat yourself up just because you need something that all humans need – relief from pain.

The next step is to take a second between the pain and the self-soothing technique to look at it and realize what you’re doing. We do things without thinking about it – like everyone else. It’s not necessarily obvious until you’re looking in hindsight that you’re doing something harmful.

Then, use that second to consider your choice. Do you really want to live with the consequences of calling your drug dealer, again?

Next, realize that while you don’t want to use that negative self-soothing technique, you do need to use something, so try something that isn’t harmful.

Examples of Positive Self-Soothing Techniques for Bipolar Pain

There are many things you can do to try to lessen the bipolar pain without hurting yourself or someone else.

Self-soothing techniques for bipolar pain that you might like to try include:

  • Petting a purring cat or having another interaction with an animal
  • Taking a hot bath/shower (Taking a cold shower can be useful, too, at times.)
  • Surrounding yourself with pillows and blankets for comfort
  • Practicing meditation/yoga/relaxation techniques
  • Hugging something/someone
  • Eating something healthy (or healthier, anyway) that you enjoy
  • Napping (not always the best option as it can mess with some people’s circadian rhythm)
  • Zoning out with TV or a movie
  • Calling a friend (yes, this is kind of like pair-soothing but I still think it counts)
  • Listening to music
  • Going for a drive
  • Reading a book
  • Doing something that doesn’t require your intellect like create art, play music, etc.
  • Lighting a scented candle, incense, etc.

And I’m sure there are many, many others that could also be added to the list. The point here is that no matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing, there is a self-soothing technique you can try that doesn’t result in harm.

So while in bipolar pain self-soothing is important, it’s just as important to ensure the method with which we do it is a positive one.


About Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer, speaker and consultant from the Pacific Northwest. She has been living with bipolar disorder for 18 years and has written more than 1000 articles on the subject.

Natasha’s New Book

Find more of Natasha’s work in her new book: Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. Media inquiries can be emailed here.

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