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10 Subtle Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Posted by on Jan. 2, 2013 at 9:15 PM
rho
  • 12 Replies

Bipolar symptoms

By Tammy Worth

When it comes to mental illness, there are plenty of stereotypes. But in reality, mood disorders can be hard to pinpoint—particularly in people with bipolar disorder symptoms. 

"Chalking it up to moodiness or trouble at work or tiredness is pretty common," says Carrie Bearden, PhD, an associate professor in residence of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and psychology at the David Geffen School of Medical at UCLA. "The disorder varies in severity."

Here are 10 signs that mood problems may be due to more than a quirky or difficult personality.

Great mood

Bipolar disorder is characterized by up-and-down episodes of mania and depression. During a manic phase, some patients can have a total break from reality.

But hypomania, which is also a symptom of the disorder, is a high-energy state in which a person feels exuberant but hasn’t lost his or her grip on reality. 

"Hypomania can be a pretty enjoyable state, really," Dr. Bearden says. A person’s mood can be elevated, they may have a lot of energy and creativity, and they may experience euphoria. This is the "up" side of bipolar disorder that some people with the condition actually enjoy—while it lasts

Inability to complete tasks

Having a house full of half-completed projects is a hallmark of bipolar disorder. People who can harness their energy when they are in a hypomanic phase can be really productive. 

Those who can’t often go from task to task, planning grand, unrealistic projects that are never finished before moving on to something else.

"They can be quite distractible and may start a million things and never finish them," says Don Malone, MD, the director of the Center for Behavioral Health and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio.

Depression

A person who is in a bipolar depressive state is going to look just like someone who has regular depression. "They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have 'plain old depression,'" Dr. Malone says. 

Unfortunately, typical antidepressants alone don't work well in patients who are bipolar. They can even make people cycle more frequently, worsening their condition, or send someone into a break-with-reality episode. 

"Antidepressants can be downright dangerous in people with bipolar because they can send them into mania," he says

Irritability

Some people with this condition suffer from "mixed mania," where they experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. During this state, they are often extremely irritable. 

Everyone has bad days, which is one reason this kind of bipolarity is much harder to recognize. 

"We are all irritable or moody sometimes," Dr. Bearden says. "But in people with bipolar disorder it often becomes so severe that it interferes with their relationships—especially if the person is saying, 'I don’t know why I’m so irritable…I can’t control it.'

Rapid speech

Some people are naturally talkative; we all know a motormouth or Chatty Cathy. But "pressured speech" is one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder. 

This kind of speech occurs when someone is really not in a two-way conversation, Dr. Bearden says. The person will talk rapidly and if you try to speak, they will likely just talk over you. 

They will also sometimes jump around to different topics. "What’s kind of a red flag is when it is atypical for the person to talk like this," doing it only when they are in a manic cycle but not at other times, she says

Trouble at work

People with this disorder often have difficulty in the workplace because so many of their symptoms can interfere with their ability to show up for work, do their job, and interact productively with others.

In addition to having problems completing tasks, they may have difficulty sleeping, irritability, and an inflated ego during a manic phase, and depression at other times, which causes excessive sleeping and additional mood problems. 

A lot of the workplace problems can be interpersonal ones, Dr. Malone says.

Alcohol or drug abuse

About 50% of people with bipolar disorder also have a substance abuse problem, particularly alcohol use, Dr. Bearden says. 

Many people will drink when they are in a manic phase to slow themselves down, and use alcohol to improve their mood when they are depressed.

Erratic behavior

When they are in a manic phase, people with bipolar disorder can have an inflated self-esteem. 

"They feel grandiose and don't consider consequences; everything sounds good to them," Dr. Malone says. 

Two of the most common types of behavior that can result from this are spending sprees and unusual sexual behavior. "I have had a number of patients who have had affairs who never would have done that if they weren't in a manic episode…during this episode they exhibited behavior that is not consistent with what they would do normally," he says

Sleep problems

People with this condition often have sleep problems. During a depression phase, they may sleep too much, and feel tired all the time. 

During a manic phase, they may not sleep enough—but still never feel tired.

Even with just a few hours of sleep each night, they may feel great and have lots of energy.

Dr. Bearden says staying on a regular sleep schedule is one of the first things she recommends for bipolar patients

Flight of ideas

This symptom may be something that is hard to recognize, but it occurs frequently when someone is in a manic phase. People feel like their mind is racing and that they can't control or slow down their thoughts. 

This flight of ideas sometimes occurs with pressured speech.

People with bipolar may not recognize or admit that their mind is racing out of control, says Dr. Bearden


by on Jan. 2, 2013 at 9:15 PM
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Replies (1-10):
emilyelephant
by on Jan. 3, 2013 at 1:27 AM

:/

lyrick24
by Ruby Member on Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:31 AM

 tfs!

hollydaze1974
by on Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:56 AM
Well, i am diagnosed bipolar, and the most frustrating thing to me is to be in a good mood, but then i have to obsess over if it's TRULY a "good mood" or the beginnings of a hypomanic stage. How effed up is that? You actually feel good for a change and have to freakin analyze whether it's real or the illness. You can't JUST be happy. Or have a blah dAy... It has to be analyzed in your head. Are you headed for a mania, where the tile is scrubbed by a toothbrush? I typically know the cycle... Three days euphoric, four days completely down.
Or what this guy terms as "irritabilty" i believe i've passed irritability a town back if i'm having dinner with my mom and imagine clawing het face of, don't you???

I try desperately to control over spending and my mania has never had a sexual component. But i will go into a store, fill the buggy to the brim with things i wish i had and then leave for some poor worker to have to put back.

AS A BIPOLAR PATIENT, I CAN GIVE YOU A SINGLE PIECE OF ADVICE:ALWAYS, EVERYTIME...REFUSE STEROIDS AS A TREATMENT OPTION! OMG! It is the world's worst feeling in the entire world! It will shove you into mania so fast!
If you remember libraries before computers.... My analogy is it's like drawers and drawers of a card catalog have flown open and you are still trying to read them as they fly by.

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Anonymous
by Anonymous 1 on Jan. 3, 2013 at 3:03 AM
My dad is a self medicating bipolar we are pretty sure and it's sad to know he's hurting but refuses to get help. It makes having a functional relationship hard due to the alcoholism and the bipolar
rhodaj
by rho on Jan. 3, 2013 at 7:21 AM


Quoting hollydaze1974:

Well, i am diagnosed bipolar, and the most frustrating thing to me is to be in a good mood, but then i have to obsess over if it's TRULY a "good mood" or the beginnings of a hypomanic stage. How effed up is that? You actually feel good for a change and have to freakin analyze whether it's real or the illness. You can't JUST be happy. Or have a blah dAy... It has to be analyzed in your head. Are you headed for a mania, where the tile is scrubbed by a toothbrush? I typically know the cycle... Three days euphoric, four days completely down.
Or what this guy terms as "irritabilty" i believe i've passed irritability a town back if i'm having dinner with my mom and imagine clawing het face of, don't you???

I try desperately to control over spending and my mania has never had a sexual component. But i will go into a store, fill the buggy to the brim with things i wish i had and then leave for some poor worker to have to put back.

AS A BIPOLAR PATIENT, I CAN GIVE YOU A SINGLE PIECE OF ADVICE:ALWAYS, EVERYTIME...REFUSE STEROIDS AS A TREATMENT OPTION! OMG! It is the world's worst feeling in the entire world! It will shove you into mania so fast!
If you remember libraries before computers.... My analogy is it's like drawers and drawers of a card catalog have flown open and you are still trying to read them as they fly by.

I know exactly what you are saying. You also need to avoid ovc meds like Mucinex D. It is the D part that you need to avoid. It will put you in a mixed expisode which. I hate. 

matreshka
by Ruby Member on Jan. 3, 2013 at 9:25 AM

I too have had problems with steroid injections and OTC meds.

I think the important thing to remember is that these signs have to cause a significant disruption in your life.  I hate to see feeling good as a pathological problem.  For many bipolar people there are periods of normality in between episodes/

Twix.Leigh
by Member on Jan. 3, 2013 at 10:11 AM
Bump to read after work
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deltathree
by Gold Member on Jan. 3, 2013 at 11:14 AM

good post!

dizzy77702
by Silver Member on Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:25 PM

I've known about my bipolar disorder for years and can totally relate to the mixed state of the disorder bc that is what I mostly suffer from.  I can get extremely irritable even irrational and sometimes I just can't control my outbursts even though I am in therapy and on medications.

Serenity7
by Silver Member on Jan. 3, 2013 at 6:32 PM

 Thanks for posting

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