Self-harming behaviour is one of the most difficult of the many behaviours
exhibited and/or experienced by some bipolar persons. Self-harm comes
in two flavours basically: 1) deliberate self-injury such as cutting,
stabbing, burning, scab-picking, scratching, hair-pulling, biting etc.,
and 2) all cases where the person puts themselves at risk of great harm
such as driving while under the influence of intoxicating substances or
in any other way that tempts fate in a risky manner.
If you can imagine being in so much pain or experiencing such self-loathing
that it is an internal physical pain, that can't be dealt with in any
other way than by a physical release of some sort, you may come just a
little closer to understanding why some of us self-harm. Self-harming
behaviour isn't suicidal behaviour, or at least not inherently so. People
who self-injure express a strong need to "let out" the
pain by cutting and other ways; they claim that they experience a sense
of peacefulness that cannot be obtained in another less harmful manner.
Sometimes the self-harm does go awry and the person will die, but that
is usually the exception. Some self-harmers in a mixed state experience
such self-loathing for their physical person that self-harming seems a
deserved end in itself. Whatever the compelling factor, these are tortured
folks trying to deal with a horrid mood in the only way they can find
that is acceptable at that time. Because self-harming is often part of
a mixed state it can escalate into suicidal behaviour and so it isn't
ever to be taken lightly. The emotional pain is very real and they need
someone with them to help them not self-harm. There's no way to tell you,
the person who loves the self-injurer, exactly what to do in this situation,
but being there and listening in a non-confrontational manner is
the option least likely to escalate the mood. Do not EVER make
the assumption that self-harming is "just an attention-getting"
thing! It's not, and to say such to a person in so much pain is very akin
to putting a nail in their coffin. Don't do it!