Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder most characterized by dramatic mood swings, from depressing lows to manic highs, amongst other symptoms. Patients experience a wide range of emotions, from unimaginable euphoria to indescribable despair.
While this emotional range is vast, the reality of mood shifts varies in severity and frequency on an individual basis. Some patients experience mood shifts as frequently as several times a day, while others just a couple times a year.
What episodes of mania feel and look like
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, someone experiencing an episode of mania may feel:
- Very happy and excited, full of energy
- Overly optimistic
- Full of new and exciting ideas to the point of insomnia.
Other people may observe that you are:
- Making plans that are grandiose and unrealistic
- Very active and moving very quickly
- Behaving in a bizarre way
- Speaking very quickly – it can be difficult for other people to understand what you are talking about
- Making odd decisions on the spur of the moment, sometimes with disastrous consequences
- Recklessly spending your money.
What episodes of depression feel and look like
States of mania are juxtaposed with episodes of depression. Mental and physical symptoms of depression may be expressed as:
- Feelings of unhappiness that does not go away
- Losing interest or not enjoying in things you once did
- Finding it hard to make even simple decisions
- Feeling extremely tired, restless and agitated
- Loss of self-confidence
- Feeling useless, inadequate and hopeless
- Thinking of suicide
- Loss of appetite and weight or overeating.
Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison is a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She also lives with bipolar disorder, and describes in her own words: “I’ve went around the solar system, I went to Saturn in my mind’s eye. I went through star fields. It was a glorious sort of ecstatic experience. … But I also had some very bad [experiences]. I’ve been hallucinating myself as dead or just covered with blood.”
How bipolar disorder affects behavior
People who suffer from bipolar disorder are significantly more likely to self-medicate or develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol than the normal population in an attempt to regulate their mood swings.
Fortunately, there are many effective therapies that have been developed to help regulate in managing the “highs and lows” to normalize a patient’s life.
Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?
One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.
But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.
If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.