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new to SI? - not sure why


mabear
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Hi,

As you know I struggle with bipolar and PTSD, however, recently while I have been going through therapy for the traumas from childhood I have suddenly begun to itch. My hands and arms. I end up scratching until I have a sore that I have to make up a story for. I'm 38 - why would this start now and is this really an SI that I should be mentioning to my therapist?

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Hmm, any hesitation to mention something to your therapist would, in my opinion, be the best reason for mentioning it. :-)

Of course, they'll just ask you what you think. So, what do you think?

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I don't know.. I am not sure if it just a new way of anxiety coming out and will go away as I continue thru the therapy and heal, or if I am turning the emotion of the trauma in to the scratching instead of actually letting it go? How can I tell which it is or if there is another explanation?

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Hi,

As you know I struggle with bipolar and PTSD, however, recently while I have been going through therapy for the traumas from childhood I have suddenly begun to itch. My hands and arms. I end up scratching until I have a sore that I have to make up a story for. I'm 38 - why would this start now and is this really an SI that I should be mentioning to my therapist?

I think it is important for you to talk to your therapist about the scratching behavior. especially when this has come about from talking about past childhood trauma.

This could be more compulsive in nature, then self injurious behaviors . Example: scratching can become a compulsion, it feels good, ou feel better, and it may calm you. If you are not delibertly trying to cause harm to yourself by scratching, then this may be something other then SI . You did mention you had a sore from the scratching, was this your intention? scratching yourself until you bleed or your skin is raw, on purpose because it is a way to cope with uncomfortable emotions, is more of a behavior of Self injury.

I hope that I did not confuse you .

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Thank you for your reply. I really tried to discern last night where it might be coming from. What I noticed is that I do it and don't realize that I am continuing to do it. What seems to happen is that the area continues to itch and I continue to scratch until it is bleeding. Last night I even used a comb to try to stop the intching and I really have an open sore now, since it dug in. Only until there was significant pain did I stop. It is not my intention to create an injury, but it seems that the injuries are getting more significant each time. It's not a conscious decision to do this, but once I start I can't seem to stop. So I am not sure which it comes from. My therapy session was on monday. Now what?

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The scratching may have something to do with your mental health, but you may also want to seek a referral for a dermatologist to make sure you have not developed some sort of skin condition which requires medical treatment. You may have a new allergy to something, it is hard to say. In the meantime, it may be a good idea to apply some sort of anti-bacterial ointment, like Polysporin, to the scratches to keep them clean and encourage healing.

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have you changed your diet in any way? more cokes or coffee/less water/stuff like that.

or your soap that you bathe with or just wash your hands and arms with?

maybe a moisturinzing lotion would help or an anti-itch lotion/cream?

I find that when I'm just sitting I start tearing up my fingernails/cutiles/fingers(!) (habit from when I was a kid:o) so I try to keep a pen or pencil in my pocket so I can fidget with that rather than attack my fingers....

Edited by confuzzed
correct spelling - oopsie
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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Denali,

I want to urge you to do two things about this scratching problem:

1. You do mention that you scratch because you are itching. It is important that you see your Psychiatrist about this. I am assuming that you taking medications for your PTSD and Bipolar disorder and that a psychiatrist(MD) is prescribing your medications. If my assumption is correct then he or she must know about the itching and scratching because it can be a medication side effect. In the event that you are seeing a regular primary care physician and he is prescribing medications for bipolar and ptsd, then he needs to know about the itching for the same reason.

2. If you are not taking medications then you should see a Dermatologist or skin doctor because you could have some type of skin condition. In other words, this might be a purely medical issue.

3. Of course you should discuss this with your therapist. Hold nothing back because the therapy is for you.

Allan :)

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hi all,

So I checked with my doc who said it was not my meds since I have had no med changes for a year and a half. The I talked with my therapist last night. The more we talked the more things came to light. We went all the way back to when I was 6 and discovered that I had been doing different types of SIB behavior since the sexual abuse started. This totally scares me since I had never thought of those things as SIB before. I guess in different forms this has been a long term habit with the reasons changing over time, but the coping skill I knew/know how to use along with the dissociation. She also indicated that the itch is a response to significant anxiety which I have been experiencing while in therapy as well as other life circumstance which are very difficult for me right now.

So for me right now, I am in an unknown and don't know which way to turn.

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Denali,

It sounds like good work in psychotherapy. Now, the idea is what can you do to help yourself while the deep psychotherapy continues? Here are some suggestions that have helped many people:

1. Soft music or the sounds of nature on a cd are very effective in relieving tensions and anxiety. Just put on a disc, lie down on a couch, close your eyes and listen and breathe deeply and slowly.

2. Learn and practice meditation.

3. A hot bath can really help. Allow yourself to soak and relax.

4. Get plenty of exercise. Jogging, biking, etc, and getting the blood flowing really helps.

These are just a few things. Check out our self help book.

Allan :)

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Thank you Allan, This a much bigger struggle than I ever imagined. It seems to have become almost an unconscious response to the stressors of life. I am not even aware that I am doing it until the injury is fairly significant. Then the injury becomes my focus, but at least it is distracting from the emotional pain. I try to stop once I realize I am dong it but it seems to become unstoppable once I have started. I guess it is learning to recognize and allow the emotions to be what they are....thus the problem....

Can people help me with coping startegies that have helped them? I am at a loss right now.

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Hey mabear,

I think Allan's suggestion of trying meditation might help. I know it has helped me, especially recently. There are many many resources on the web that you can find for learning about meditation, and there are podcasts of guided meditations that are free to download too. I've used both written material and podcasts and, like I said, it really has helped me, especially lately. But, like anything, meditation it does take patience and practice.

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I have been trying the things suggested, I guess I wasn't very articulate in my question. What do you do in the moment when you realize you are doing SIB behavior? I guess I am asking the more immediate, until you can go out and get excercise or meditate. Is there anything besides jsut trying will power to stop?

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I have been trying the things suggested, I guess I wasn't very articulate in my question. What do you do in the moment when you realize you are doing SIB behavior? I guess I am asking the more immediate, until you can go out and get excercise or meditate. Is there anything besides jsut trying will power to stop?

This is a very tough one! once you realize the SIB behavior you got to stop yourself from it, get away from the behavior by distracting yourself. Better yet, before the behavior even begans, try using relaxation techniques, OR call a friend, be with someone > because often times SI is done in private , being around others is the best way to stop it from happening.

Since I struggle with Si this is very hard to answer . I am not good at any of these suggestions, but am aware that when alone, it is the biggest trigger for me, and that is when I tend to do the most SI behaviors.

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you can use meditation anytime/anywhere - unless of course you're driving the car, that could be a big problem....;)

Try using meditation as your interruption for the SI behavior. It might work for you. But again, meditation requires patience and practice.:)

Edited by confuzzed
fix my English!!
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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Everyone,

All of us may be missing something. What I mean is that we focus on how to stop the SI behavior. However, prevention is also important and to be able to prevent SI we need to predict when it might happen. For example, what are the types of situations (events, conversations, emotions, etc.) that are good at setting off a jag of SI?

If you can log when the impulse to SI occurs you may be able to head it off by doing the things we discussed but before the impulse sets in.

Some people start to feel "empty" inside or "very anxious" or very "tense" or "invisible." There are other things too.

Some of the feelings I just mentioned can be set off from such things as an argument, someone being rude to you, money worries, having a bad day with you child, or with your spouse, etc.

What do you all think??

Allan:)

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I agree with you Allan.

Now that I think about it, I have had a life-long problem with biting my nails, tearing up my fingers, just in general abusing my hands. Seems like I do that when I get nervous, anxious, or irritated about something. (makes sense that I wouldn't do that otherwise)

As a result I usually have a messed up finger somewhere. oops.

Hmmm, guess I have another item to work on!:o

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Thank you. I will try to keep a log of what is going on when I want to, LOL if I'm not already scratching. Or at least record what was happening or I was thinking directly before. I know that anxiety is huge for me right now with all the external things triggering my internal fears. Not getting much sleep lately isn't helping much either, but I am working hard to correct that.

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So here is what I have noticed. It's almost an invlountary reaction to an increase or perceived increase in stress. I also automatically go for it right after a flashback, sometimes I think this is to remind myself that I am in control of my pain now and not them. It's definitely my replacement behavior and the extent of the damage goes along with the level of stress or flashback. My thought is that it is my way of emotion control. Not sure if this is common or not. So don't really know how to predict that. I am good at logic or theory or others emtions, not my emotions.

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Guest ASchwartz

Mabear and everyone,

But, do not stop journaling or keeping a log of when you hurt yourself and when you feel an increase in stress.

You see, the act of recording it helps to make it much less unconscious or automatic. The act of tracking it actually helps to control it.

Allan :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

The less sleep I get the more depressed I get and the more I am injuring. I am beyond scratching and back to some of my old behaviors and habits. My partner is yelling at me to stop becasue she doesn't understand, which just makes things worse. She has been patient with the bipolar for 6 years now, but she is starting to question her continued ability to stay with this crazy person.

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Guest ASchwartz

Dear Mabear,

You are not a "crazy person." From what you tell us, you have Bipolar Disorder. When you are symptomatic things become difficult for you and for those around you. Besides taking medication and going to psychotherapy it is also important to reduce stress, especially when you have this disorder. Loss of sleep is a common problem for those with Bipolar, due to the manic symptoms and, at times, due to the medication.

I suggest that you speak to your psychiatrist about the sleep problems. That is the first thing.

The second thing is to start using good sleep hygiene practices, something that a lot of Americans need to do, whether they have Bipolar or not. That means you should stay away from products with caffein: coffee, tea and carbonate beverages and even some beverages that are not carbonated. Also, alcohol is a known factor that interferes with sleep.

Get exercise and learn meditation and yoga. These practices help sleep.

Also, do not eat before bedtime. Your body needs three or more hours after eating and before going to bed.

What do you think???

Allan:)

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