What Does Being Bipolar Mean

Bipolar Disorder And Suicide

What Does Bipolar I Feel Like?

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder is often very severe, and suicide is a major risk factor. In fact, people suffering from bipolar disorder are more likely to attempt suicide than those suffering from regular depression. Furthermore, their suicide attempts tend to be more lethal.

The risk of suicide is even higher in people with bipolar disorder who have frequent depressive episodes, mixed episodes, a history of alcohol or drug abuse, a family history of suicide, or an early onset of the disease.

Suicide warning signs include:

  • Talking about death, self-harm, or suicide.
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless.

Get more help

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, causes, and treatment.

Rapid Cycling Signs, symptoms, and causes of rapid cycling in bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Workbook and other self-help resources.

Hotlines and support

In the U.S.: Call the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-6264 or find DBSA Chapters/Support Groups in your area.

UK: Call the peer support line at 0333 323 3880 and leave a message for a return call or Find a Support Group near you.

Australia: Call the Sane Helpline at 1800 187 263 or find a local Support Group.

Canada: Visit Finding Help for links to provincial helplines and support groups.

India: Call the Vandrevala Foundation Helpline at 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330

The HelpGuide team appreciates the support of Diamond Benefactors Jeff and Viktoria Segal.

Understand What Medication Can Do For You

For many people, medication is an important part of bipolar disorder treatment. These medications help regulate the processes in the brain contributing to depression and mania. Many people with bipolar disorder struggle to stay on their medications. It is important that all members of your support system understand the role that medication plays in your treatment and encourage you to take it. If you are worried about misusing your medication, you may want to ask someone you trust to store medication for you and help you take it.

Learn The Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can show up in people differently. Learn the signs of depressive and manic episodes. It can help to directly ask your friend things like:

  • What do your manic or depressive symptoms look like?
  • Is getting worse or better?
  • Are there signs that I should look out for that things are getting worse or getting better?
  • What are the coping strategies that work for you?

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Anything That Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Yes, it’s true that some people go through difficult experiences, learn from them, and come out of them stronger. But this phrase is wrongbipolar disorder can kill. At least 25% to 60% of people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide and between 4% and 16% die from suicide.

Leave this cliche out of your repertoire. If you have a friend or family member with bipolar disorder, be aware that they might go into a crisis and need your support.

If you or a loved one are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Its Important To Keep Talking

Initially, your loved one may not understand completely. Thats OK. Give them time.

Explain to them that youre working to manage your condition and get the help you need. And that their encouragement and support is needed as well. Let them know the conversations you share help build a strong foundation from which you can hopefully move forward.

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Go To Couples Counseling

Couples counseling is essential for working through upset over a bipolar partners actions. Its common for someone with bipolar disorder to hurt and offend their partner. When someone is first diagnosed, there are often relationship issues that need to be addressed. Couples counseling can help you:

  • Understand that theres an illness involved in the hurtful behavior.
  • Forgive the behavior that happened during an altered mood state.
  • Set boundaries with a partner about maintaining treatment.

Is Anger A Side Effect Of Medication Used To Treat Bipolar Disorder

Prescription medication is one of the primary ways doctors treat bipolar disorder. Doctors often prescribe a variety of medications for the disorder. Mood stabilizers such as lithium are usually part of the mix.

Lithium can help treat symptoms of bipolar disorder. It can also improve the brain chemical imbalances believed to be responsible for the disorder in the first place.

Although there are anecdotal reports of people experiencing increased episodes of irritability and anger after taking lithium, they arent considered side effects of the medication.

Side effects of mood stabilizers such as lithium include:

Changes in emotions are often the result of your body learning to adjust to the new chemicals. Thats why its important that you continue to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.

Even if new symptoms crop up, dont stop taking your medication without first discussing it with your doctor. If you do, it may cause an unexpected shift in your emotions and increase your risk of side effects.

Everyone gets upset from time to time. Anger can be a normal, healthy reaction to something thats happened in your life.

However, anger thats uncontrollable or prevents you from interacting with another person is a problem.

If you think this strong emotion is preventing you from having a healthy relationship with friends, loved ones, and colleagues, it may be time to see a doctor.

The following steps may help you manage any shifts in emotions.

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Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder

Each type of bipolar disorder is identified by the pattern of mania and depressive episodes. The treatment that is best for you may differ depending on the type.

Common symptoms of a manic episode include three or more of these symptoms:

  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
  • Increased activity, energy or agitation
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence
  • Loss of interest in activities that the person typically enjoys
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Bipolar Disorder In Children And Teens

What Is Being Bipolar Like?

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children is controversial, largely because children dont always display the same bipolar disorder symptoms as adults. Their moods and behaviors may also not follow the standards doctors use to diagnose the disorder in adults.

Many bipolar disorder symptoms that occur in children also overlap with symptoms of other conditions that commonly occur in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder .

However, in the last few decades, doctors and mental health professionals have come to recognize the condition in children. A diagnosis can help children get treatment, but reaching a diagnosis may take many weeks or months. It may be worth seeking care from a professional who specializes in treating children with mental health conditions.

Like adults, children with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood shifts. They can appear very happy and show signs of excitable behavior, or seem very tearful, low, and irritable.

All children experience mood changes, but bipolar disorder causes distinct and noticeable mood symptoms. Mood changes are also usually more extreme than a childs typical change in mood.

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How Does Pregnancy Affect Bipolar Disorder

Women who have bipolar disorder are at risk for experiencing an episode after giving birth, especially a depressive episode.7,1 Women who experience a depressive or manic episode after giving birth are also more likely to have episodes after other pregnancies.2 Women with bipolar disorder are at high risk of developing postpartum psychosis, which is a medical emergency.

Talk to your doctor or nurse if you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant. Some medicines are not safe to take during pregnancy.

The Three Symptoms Below Represent The Side Of Bipolar Disorder We All Know Is There But Rarely Want To Let The Public Know Exists

I know how important it is to protect the reputation of bipolar disorder in the general public. We dont want people thinking we are dangerous, scary, crazy people who cant be trusted. But I do feel we need to own up to the fact that certain mood swings DO cause the behaviors we want to sweep under the carpet. The three symptoms below represent the side of bipolar disorder we all know is there but rarely want to let the public know exists. This is only an opinion, of course, but Im truly interested to know if you feel the same.

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What Do You Do To Keep Well

Keeping well when you have bipolar is an interesting concept. For some it revolves exclusively around manging moods. For others it means fitting life around moods.

For me, and others like me who are deep into a recovery that seems to be holding, its about keeping an eye, and investing in the things that help us all boost our mental health.

For many, if not most people with bipolar, life and keeping well includes taking medication.

Blogger Tanya said:

The thing I most prioritise with keeping myself well is to be strict in taking my medication. Missing doses or tweaking them without professional help can be devastating.

Again, Im going to buck the trend and say I dont take medication routinely. I took lithium for a decade, and then wanted, once I knew myself and had done my research, to try tapering off. That was eight years ago, and Ive managed it. I did it carefully, over two years, with support, whilst learning other techniques.

Cait agrees:

For 13 years, I took medication, but in the past six months, I’ve been trying to cope without it. So I have to be super careful, and alas, super boring. I don’t drink a lot, I have relatively early nights when I can.

Bipolar can also be triggered by trauma, or other life events and sometimes part of therapy is addressing underlying concerns to get someone to a point where they can start to see a life worth living.

Anna said:

Hannah has a rigid menu:

Manic Symptoms In Children

Symptoms of mania in children can include:

  • acting very silly and feeling overly happy
  • talking fast and rapidly changing subjects
  • having trouble focusing or concentrating
  • doing risky things or experimenting with risky behaviors
  • having a very short temper that leads quickly to outbursts of anger
  • having trouble sleeping and not feeling tired after sleep loss

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Treatment Works Samhsa Can Help You Find It

Effective treatments for bipolar disorder are available in your area. The earlier that you begin treatment, the greater likelihood of a better outcome. For confidential and anonymous help finding a specialty program near you, visit SAMHSAs Early Serious Mental Illness Treatment Locator.

If you have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment for a serious mental illness, but moved to a new location, help is available. Use SAMHSAs Behavioral Treatment Services Locator to locate a new program or call SAMHSAs National Helpline at or TTY for 24 hour, free, and confidential information and treatment referral.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder From The Inside Out

When a bipolar diagnosis is square one, every investigative step you take in deepening your understanding is a positive motion toward improvement. Every effort is integral in the journey to staving off stigma and embracing your dignity.

So, Im happy youre here.

Whether you are facing your own diagnosis or caring for someone who is struggling, this is a community you can count on. Ive written these letters directly to you as a way of imparting the strength and faith that you deserve. These are my messages of empathy and understanding to you, in hopes that youll find power in your path and invigoration in discovering what bipolar means to you.

My words to you as:

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms

Everyones experience with bipolar disorder is different, and the signs and symptoms vary.

  • A manic episode may include these symptoms:

  • Intense feelings of euphoria, excitement, or happiness
  • Appearing abnormally jumpy or wired
  • Having excessive energy
  • Insomnia or restlessness
  • Speaking fast or being unusually talkative
  • Having racing or jumbled thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Doing impulsive, uncharacteristic, or risky things like having unsafe sex or spending a lot of money
  • Increased agitation and irritability
  • A depressive episode may include these symptoms:

  • Feeling down, sad, worried, worthless, anxious, guilty, empty, or hopeless
  • Lack of interest, or no interest, in activities
  • Feeling tired, low energy
  • Changes in sleep, either sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite, either eating too much or too little
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide
  • A severe manic or depressive episode may trigger psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations .

    Everybody Has Mood Swings Sometimes

    How To Tell what Mania and Hypomania Really Look like

    That’s true. For one thing, 8% of American adults and 4% of adolescents have major depressive disorder, having periods of euthymia and depression. Even among those who do not have a diagnosable mental health disorder, people experience changes in mood.

    But only people with bipolar disorder, cyclothymia, schizoaffective disorder, and related severe mental illnesses have repeated and severe mood swings between mania or hypomania and depression.

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    How Is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed

    If you or someone you know has symptoms of bipolar disorder, talk to your family doctor or a psychiatrist. They will ask questions about mental illnesses that you, or the person you’re concerned about, have had, and any mental illnesses that run in the family. The person will also get a complete psychiatric evaluation to tell if they have likely bipolar disorder or another mental health condition.

    Diagnosing bipolar disorder is all about the person’s symptoms and determining whether they may be the result of another cause . How severe are they? How long have they lasted? How often do they happen?

    The most telling symptoms are those that involve highs or lows in mood, along with changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.

    Talking to close friends and family of the person can often help the doctor distinguish bipolar disorder from major depressive disorder or other psychiatric disorders that can involve changes in mood, thinking, and behavior.

    If you have just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you might feel frightened. The future may seem terribly uncertain. What will this mean for your life, your family, and your job?

    But getting an accurate diagnosis is actually good news. It means you can finally get the treatment you need. People with bipolar disorder usually go about 10 years before being accurately diagnosed.

    If you think your child might have bipolar disorder, ask your doctor for a referral to a child psychologist whoâs familiar with bipolar disorder.

    Some Mood Episodes Can Cause Behavior That Is Out Of Character And Difficult To Tolerate We Can Help Loved Ones Recognize And Prevent These Shifts Before They Damage Our Relationship

    Many people believe that bipolar disorder comes with only sad depression or euphoric mania. In reality, this is just 50% of bipolar disorder. The other side of bipolar includes symptoms of irritation, anger, restlessness, and a mean and nasty mood. This mood swing can be from either agitated depression, or an episode with mixed features, which I call dysphoric mania.

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    Can You Have A Good Life With Bipolar Disorder

    Absolutely. People with well-managed bipolar disorders have jobs, families, and are productive members of our society. Bipolar disorder, while a chronic condition, doesnt define you. Just like people who manage their diabetes or heart condition, you can learn to manage and control bipolar disorders with medications, therapies, and good lifestyle habits that sets you up for a successful life.

    What Are The Different Types Of Bipolar Disorder

    There are different types of bipolar disorder.

    What is bipolar disorder I disorder?

    A diagnosis of bipolar I disorder means you will have had at least 1 episode of mania that lasts longer than 1 week. You may also have periods of depression. Manic episodes will generally last 3-6 months if left untreated. Depressive episodes will generally last 6-12 months without treatment.

    What is bipolar II disorder?

    A diagnosis of bipolar II disorder means it is common to have symptoms of depression. You will have had at least 1 period of major depression. And at least 1 period of hypomania instead of mania.

    What is bipolar I or II disorder with mixed features?

    You will experience symptoms of mania or hypomania and depression at the same time. You may hear this being called mixed bipolar state. You may feel very sad and hopeless at the same time as feeling restlessness and being overactive.

    What is bipolar I or II disorder with rapid cycling?

    Rapid cycling means you have had 4 or more depressive, manic or hypomanic episodes in a 12-month period.

    What is bipolar I or II with seasonal pattern?

    Seasonal pattern means that either your depression, mania or hypomania is regularly affected in the same way by the seasons. For example, you may find that each winter you have a depressive episode, but your mania doesnt regularly follow a pattern.

    There can be some similarities between bipolar I or II with seasonal pattern and another conditional called seasonal affective disorder.

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    Keep Going Dont Give Up

    Taking the first step toward getting help and getting support from your doctor was a big one. Now, how do you stay motivated? Here are some tips to keep you going.

    • Keep talking to your doctor about your treatment plan and progress
    • Expect symptoms to improve gradually, not all at once. It can take time to find the right treatment plan for you
    • Stay on your medicationtalk to your doctor before you stop taking your medication
    • Establish and keep a routineit helps to create stability
    • Watch for warning signs that your mood is shifting

    It is important that you talk to your doctor about your treatment plan and how you are feeling. Together you can determine the best way to continue your progress.

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