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What Having Bipolar Feels Like

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You’re Just Overreacting Again

Having Bipolar Disorder – What It Feels Like

Overreacting is a symptom of bipolar disorder. Hearing harsh words that would be painful to anyone,;you may well respond with extreme anger or dark depression. Even a sad movie can make a person with bipolar disorder overreact. But you’re not “just” overreacting, and it’s not as if you can always take a deep breath and stop it. Your illness can make that very difficult.

How To Get Help

About 2.6% of the U.S. population have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It usually comes on at about age 25, but it can happen earlier. There are different types, too. Symptoms can happen — or not happen — along a wide spectrum.

A âlife chartâ is a good way to track your moods and help your doctor diagnose whether you have bipolar disorder. Youâll record details about your moods, sleep patterns, and events in your life. If youâre on a manic swing, you might feel âupâ and capable, but a look at the big picture will show you how a âdownâ will follow. The info also will give your doctor a window into your day-to-day — even hour-to-hour — life to decide how best to proceed with treatment if needed.

Special phone apps can help you keep up, too. There are quite a few available to help you track your moods, medications, sleep patterns, and more. One even analyzes how you type on your phone: your rhythm and speed, mistakes, corrections, and other dynamics, but not your content. It then uses this data to gauge your mood and predict bipolar episodes. Just remember that these apps donât take the place of following a treatment plan under your doctorâs care.

This Is What A Bipolar Manic Episode Feels Like

If you have a basic understanding of bipolar disorder, you probably know that people with the mental illness go through periods of extreme mood swings, intermixed with periods without symptoms. These bipolar episodes, as theyre called, can last weeks or months and be both high and low or somewhere in the middle. Mania is often thought of as the euphoric end of the mood spectrum, but theres a lot more to it, and it can actually be quite disruptive in a persons life.

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Bipolar Disorder Is A Serious Often Misunderstood Mental Illness That Causes Dramatic Shifts In Mood Energy And Activity Levels

During BuzzFeed’s Mental Health Week, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their experiences with bipolar disorder, and we received nearly 200 emails and hundreds more comments.

Here, we’ve included their quotes as well as an interview with psychologist Vaile Wright, Ph.D., director of research and special projects at the American Psychological Association, to give a better picture of what life is really like with bipolar disorder.

Lean On A Support Team

what bipolar disorder really feels like

In addition to seeking professional help, it can help to put together a group of friends, family members, and other trusted adults who can support treatment. Its not uncommon for someone with bipolar disorder to feel like a burden to others. When they do, it is common to self-isolate. It can help to remember that there are people who have a common goal: to help you cope with the ups and downs of bipolar disorder.

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Do People With Bipolar Disorder Know They Have The Condition Before Getting Diagnosed

Sometimes. For example, Ayetoro had suspicions for years before officially being diagnosed in 2014.

I experienced what I thought were abnormal swings in mood from very high energy to very low energy for a very long time before. My moods would get so low that I was spending unusual amounts of time in bed depressed, she recalls. It was strange that this depression would follow periods of extremely high spirits.

She experienced two manic episodes before receiving her diagnosis. It was somewhat of a relief to put a name to what was with me, but then began the hard road to stability.

On the other hand, Howard was surprised to receive a diagnosis of bipolar I with psychosis at age 25. As for what made me believe I may have had an illness literally nothing. I was tricked into going to the hospital. Up until the moment I was admitted, I thought everything was normal. It was quite the shock.

Who would I be without bipolar disorder? Id love to find out, he adds. But harnessing my mind and using it to the best of my ability has been my lifes work.

Experts Still Aren’t Entirely Sure What Causes Bipolar Disorder

“The best science suggests some combination of genetics and biology along with environmental factors,” says Wright. “We know if a parent has bipolar disorder, the child is more likely to have it, but that doesn’t mean they will have it.”

It’s currently thought of as a brain disorder, since research shows that the brain may function differently in those with bipolar disorder.

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People With Bipolar Disorder Are Not Ticking Time Bombs

“After finding out, people treat me like a land mine. They walk on eggshells around me, because they think that if they do/say one wrong thing, I’ll explode. I am not a land mine. I am not a time bomb. I’m a 16-year-old diagnosed with several mental health disorders, working as hard as I possibly can to not let the negative sides of my mental health rule my life.”

âCaitlin via email

You Have Bouts Of Over

Sometimes bipolar feels like having multiple personalities

This is mania. Itâs a high that goes way beyond âhappyâ or âjoyful.â Some people have it often, others hardly ever.

Hypomania is a milder form of this feeling. It doesnât turn into psychosis like mania can, but itâs part of a bipolar diagnosis. You might feel great and get a lot done, but those around you might see changes in your mood and activity levels.

To get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you must have had at least one manic or hypomanic experience.

Signs of manic behavior include:

  • Your mood isnât comfortable. It might feel good at first, especially after depression. But it quickly becomes erratic and out of control.
  • Your judgment swerves way off. You take extreme risks. You make bad decisions with no thought for what might happen. For instance, you might spend money recklessly or have risky sex.
  • You get bad-tempered and angry.
  • You feel strung-out or edgy.
  • You find it hard to sleep.
  • You feel like your mind is a freeway. You might talk super-fast and hop subjects, or think you can do too many things at once.

Some episodes can mix mania and depression. For example, you might feel hyper-energetic and full of despair at the same time.

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Its Hard To Come To Terms With Having A Mental Illness

Even after a person learns they have bipolar disorder, it can be hard to accept the reality of it. Living with any mental illness can be really difficult and bipolar disorder has its own challenges. Sometimes people feel like if they reject the label of bipolar disorder, they can avoid some of those challenges. But bipolar disorder doesnt just go away if you ignore it.

The reality is that labels can actually set you free. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder helps you understand what youre experiencing. It opens up treatment options that can help you feel better. And it puts you in good company with millions of other people around the world, many of whom have accomplished incredible things.

On the other hand, sometimes people who dont know any better use the word bipolar to describe someone who is actually just moody. Be careful pushing labels on people when youre not an expert yourself. If you think your friend has bipolar disorder, encourage them to see a mental health professional who can evaluate and diagnose them. You can also point them to our online bipolar test, which is an easier start than going straight to a professional.

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.

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But You Seem So Normal

Maybe the person with bipolar disorder is between cycles, or maybe they are good at hiding what they’re feeling. They may be in a hypomanic episode and only the good things about it are visible at the moment. Consider how this would sound if you had a serious illness such as cancer and someone said, “You can’t be sick, you look so normal!”

Here Is How This Young Man Describes His Bipolar Depression

What Bipolar Disorder Really Feels Like

When Im depressed, I want to be left alone. Its not that I want to be by myself; I want everyone to disappear. I dont want to go anywhere, see anyone, or do anything. Its like no matter what I do, people are telling me Im doing something wrong. So, the easiest way to feel better is to hide.

Seeing all those people carrying on, living their happy little lives is an annoying reminder of my bipolar disorder and how Ill never have that kind of stability. Whats worse is hearing all the people I entertain while in my mania talk about how quiet I am and that Im not entertaining. Do they try to cheer me up, or do something to make me laugh? No. They just want their clown back. Its annoying.

No matter what it is work, hanging out with friends, exercise I dont enjoy things because the smallest details annoy me. If friends invite me out, I imagine waiting for the bus, being crammed against angry people, waiting in lines, and all the other negative things. I think of every possible downside of something, which leaves me dreading the idea of doing anything.

I turn into this grumpy old man. Ive contemplated suicide and have attempted it once before.

But the more I understand the problem, the more I know that the depression is temporary and I dont always think clearly during it. That self-reminder helps me from doing anything stupid.

When I think about the future, I dont like what I see. I can only envision more troubles, endless work, and an endless string of letdowns.

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People With Bipolar Disorder Are Not Always Experiencing Symptoms

Individuals with bipolar disorder do experience periods of extreme changes in mood and energy levels, but not around the clock.

First, these shifts are called episodesand there are a few different types, as SELF reported previously:

  • Mania: A manic episode is typically characterized by having high energy and activity levels, a reduced need for sleep, and/or feeling confident or euphoric. But someone in a manic episode may also feel irritable and agitated while also being energized.
  • Hypomania: This is a less severe version of mania but still presents generally as high energy and activity while feeling as if you dont require sleep.
  • Depression: A depressive episode may cause a person to feel sad or down, fatigued, or they may have difficulty concentrating or think about death or suicide.
  • Mixed: A mixed episode means that a person is experiencing a manic or depressive episode with some symptoms of the opposite mood state at the same time.

The types of episodes that you go through depend on whether you have bipolar I or II . And how a person feels or acts during their bipolar episodes can vary greatly and be quite subjective.

Bipolar Disorder Is Often Mistaken For Other Illnesses

The symptoms associated with bipolar disorder may be similar to those of other illnesses , which makes bipolar disorder difficult to diagnose clinically, the National Institute of Mental Health explains.

People with bipolar disorder may also have other conditions concurrently, such as an anxiety disorder, and that can make it even more difficult to distinguish the symptoms of bipolar disorder from those of other diagnoses.

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Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

If you spot the symptoms of bipolar disorder in yourself or someone else, dont wait to get help. Ignoring the problem wont make it go away; in fact, it will almost certainly get worse. Living with untreated bipolar disorder can lead to problems in everything from your career to your relationships to your health. But bipolar disorder is highly treatable, so diagnosing the problem and starting treatment as early as possible can help prevent these complications.

If youre reluctant to seek treatment because you like the way you feel when youre manic, remember that the energy and euphoria come with a price. Mania and hypomania often turn destructive, hurting you and the people around you.

Bipolar Disorder Usually Includes Manic And Depressive Episodes But There Can Also Be Hypomanic And Mixed Episodes

What It Feels Like to Have Bipolar Disorder

A manic episode might include extreme overconfidence and happiness, and sometimes irritability or anger. Someone in a manic state may have racing thoughts, talk faster than normal, not sleep, or behave in impulsive, risky, or dangerous ways . A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode but is typically shorter and less severe.

A depressive episode can include feelings of sadness, loneliness, and low self-esteem. Someone in a depressive state may lose interest in things they typically enjoy, have difficulty concentrating, sleep less or more, or have suicidal thoughts.

A mixed episode is one that includes both manic and depressive symptoms at the same time.

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And They Probably Don’t Fit The Stereotype You Have In Your Mind

“We’re not all misunderstood ax murderers or manic pixie dream girls. We’re your siblings, classmates, hell, maybe even your significant other! Just like any other medical condition, bipolar disorder comes in all shapes and sizes. You might be surprised to learn that it’s not just classified by out-of-control highs or suicidal lows; a lot of the time it’s a mix of some pervasive melancholy in between. The other two certainly happen, but they aren’t always recognizable in day-to-day life for the untrained eye.”

âSara via email

What Can I Do To Manage My Symptoms

You can learn to manage your symptoms by looking after yourself. Selfcare is how you take care of your diet, sleep, exercise, daily routine, relationships and how you are feeling.

What lifestyle changes can I make?

Making small lifestyle changes can improve your wellbeing and can help your recovery.

Routine helps many people with their mental wellbeing. It will help to give a structure to your day and may give you a sense of purpose. This could be a simple routine such as eating at the same time each day, going to bed at the same time each day and buying food once per week.

Your healthcare professionals should offer you a combined healthy eating, exercise and sleep programme.

You can find more information about wellbeing any physical health at:www.rethink.org/advice-and-information/living-with-mental-illness/wellbeing-physical-health/.

What are support groups?

You could join a support group. A support group is where people come together to share information, experiences and give each other support.

You might be able to find a local group by searching online. The charity Bipolar UK have an online support group. They also have face to face support groups in some areas of the country. Their contact details are in the Useful contacts at the bottom of this page.

What are recovery colleges?

Unfortunately, recovery colleges arent available in all areas. To see if there is a recovery college in your area you can use a search engine such as Google.

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You Can Support Someone You Love With Bipolar Disorder By Educating Yourself And Understanding These Facts

Learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder, Nina*, 25, who has bipolar II, tells SELF. There are so many books for families and friends.

Bradley, who is 54 years old and has bipolar I, first picked up on symptoms of his condition when he was 48. He tells SELF that a reliable, informed support system is key in helping a person with bipolar stay on top of their treatment. If the person is in denial about their condition, then friends and family need to conduct a loving intervention to explain their care and the need for the person to be evaluated, he suggests. They need to do it together and all go with the person to see a great psychiatrist, then provide assistance in order to make sure that their is regularly taken. No exceptions.

Mike uses his wife as a example of how family can be hugely important for someone with bipolar disorder: makes sure I take my meds. She has learned to recognize signs that I am experiencing unnatural highs and lows. She will force me to have contact with others even though I dont want the contact. She asks how I am, and she engages me in conversation even when I dont want to talk, he says. I appreciate that, and it always helps.

Dr. Galynker agrees that family and friends can be game-changing in helping someone with bipolar disorder manage their illness. He recommends going to therapy with your loved one if they are open to that and being in the know about the specific medications they are taking and for what.

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