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The Benefits of Knitting for Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder

Updated on September 27, 2018
Marilyn Monroe knitting
Marilyn Monroe knitting | Source

Warm and Fuzzy

Knitting is a craft that continues to stand the test of time. Even though the knitting machine was one of the first inventions to appear in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, knitters around the world continued to pick up their needles, and the art has been passed down from generation to generation. And now, with the rise of local marketplaces, the green movement, and popular websites specializing in handmade goods, knitting is "trending".

But knitters enjoy more than a boost in income. In fact, those who sell their finished goods quite often only do so to increase their budget for more knitting supplies! The hours of love and attention that go into making a beautiful garment or accessory are typically not even rewarded with minimum wage. So what is it that knitting provides that is even more rewarding than cash?

  • The opportunity to give
  • An outlet for creativity
  • A non-generational human connection
  • Dexterity
  • And finally, a supplement for mental and emotional disorder treatment

Knitting to Regulate Mood

Disorders that affect an individual's ability to regulate his or her mood include depressive disorders and bipolar disorders. "Depression" is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of disorders, but most commonly presents as a decrease or loss in pleasure, melancholy, grief, guilt, and a feeling of worthlessness. There are several different types of bipolar disorders, but each is characterised by periods of mania, or very elevated mood states, and periods of major depressive states. Other disorders, such as personality disorders and many physical illnesses, also cause dysregulation of mood. .

How it Works:

  • Increases self-worth
  • Induces a sense of compassion as you create gifts
  • Channels manic energy into an activity that isn't destructive
  • Stimulates creativity
  • Makes use of passion and creativity induced by elevated mood states
  • Repetitive motion distracts your brain from harmful thoughts
  • Knitting at night can induce calm and tire out the mind for more restful sleep

sleeping kitten on ball of yarn
sleeping kitten on ball of yarn | Source

Knitting to Ease Anxiety

Anxiety is something many people experience to some extent at some point in their lifetime. For some, anxiety is a life-long disorder that requires talk therapy and/or medication, while for others anxiety is situational. For both types of anxiety, knitting can be a handy tool in your coping mechanism toolbox.

How it Works:

  • Allows you to focus most of your attention on just one thing
  • For social anxiety, performing a simple activity while talking or engaging in social interaction can ease tension
  • Anxiety often manifests as constant, obtrusive and repetitive thoughts. Having a pattern to go over and over in you mind can replace those racing thoughts
  • Provides a sense of accomplishment, while still being a restful activity


Knitting is a simple yet intricate, physical, tactile experience. Many sufferers of mental disorders and mood disorders benefit greatly from practicing mindfulness, which is the art of experiencing the present, without judgment. The benefits of practicing mindfulness every day include an increased sense of peace, a new awareness of time and your surroundings, and the ability to relax during an emotionally triggering experience.

Paying attention to your knitting and only your knitting (no music, no T.V., no talking), for even just 5 minutes per day can be a meaningful exercise in mindfulness.

  • Look at the fibers and how they make up the color
  • Feel the softness or roughness
  • Is it thick or thin?
  • Listen to the clicking of your needles
  • Don't rush- feel each stitch as it slides over the needle

This exercise can be especially beneficial for individuals who suffer from dissociative disorders. These disorders cause a sense of being detached from one's own body, and in some cases, detached from one's own personality. Grounding exercises, which are where a person re-attaches to his or her body and physical space, help some of these individuals most. For others, a distraction is best. Knitting provides both of these solutions.

Below is an instructional video on how to cast on, which is the first step in beginning every knitting project. The host goes slowly, so it is perfect if you're starting your first project or just need a refresher. I also suggest continuing on to her videos on knitting and purling when you're ready.

Slow Video for Beginning Your First Project

Delaying Degeneration

According to recent research on brain plasticity, learning a new and engaging hobby can delay the onset of stress-related degenerative diseases, like dementia.

Watch this amazing video for the science of how knitting engages the brain.

Knitting and the Brain

In Short

  • Knitting can help battle depression
  • Knitting can help regulate your mood
  • It can help minimize anxiety
  • Knitting is a perfect way to exercise mindfulness, which is useful in the treatment of mental disorder
  • And knitting can even keep you sharper, longer by increasing your brain health!

Happy knitting!



© 2015 Sarah B


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    • Jennifer Mugrage profile image

      Jennifer Mugrage 

      5 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

      This is a terrific article! I am delighted that a simple, homey, frugal activity shows such mental benefits. When we think about it, it shouldn't be surprising.

      I wonder if the same is true of spinning and weaving. I am thinking of all those women down through the ages who had to spin and weave their families' own clothing. Surely anxiety disorders existed back then ... goodness knows they had plenty to be anxious about ... did such tasks help them manage? It's a nice thought. I think of Penelope, sitting weaving her cloth and wondering whether her husband would ever come home from the wars, and how she would protect the kingdom until he did.

      Thanks for including the tutorial link. I don't knit (yet), but it's nice to know that it's not too late to learn.


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