“OMG, I seriously think I am Bipolar!” I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say that. They have mood swings so they assume they MUST be bipolar… or something? We want to take this time to clear a few things up about Bipolar Disorder symptoms and what else might be going on.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of fluctuations in mood that range from depression to periods of mania or manic episode. Mania includes things like elevated mood, irritation, speaking at a rapid pace, racing thoughts, impulsivity, reckless behaviours like excessive spending, drugs, sexual promiscuity, and lack of need for sleep. These symptoms interfere with work and social life and last from a few days to over a week. Other potential symptoms include:

  • depressed mood
  • environmental factors
  • mood episodes
  • mania and depression
  • major depressive episodes

If you relate to these things, you may want to speak to your family doctor about getting a referral to a psychiatrist, so they can assess if you require mood stabilizers. That being said, some of the signs of mania may actually be more reflective of overactive dysfunctional needs (D.N.s) and the opt-outs that follow. So, what does that look like?

If you are terrified of failure because of how failing would reflect on you as a person, the drive to succeed can become all-encompassing. As a result, you dive headfirst into your work, say yes to everything, work late into the evening, put immense pressure on yourself, feel stressed and overwhelmed, then take it all out on your family at the end of the day. You basically live in a pressure cooker that eventually needs to burst. You may pull back on sleep in favour of work and feel like your thoughts are all over the place.

Cue the opt-outs, these are the great equalizers. So, if we feel mild stress and pressure, we may opt out by zoning out on Instagram and mindlessly stuffing guacamole into our mouths. But, if we feel completely overwhelmed and maxed out then our opt-outs need to match in intensity, so we may spend thousands of dollars on shit we don’t need, have an affair, and crash so hard that we impulsively and uncharacteristically quit our job.

In other words, what looks like mania, i.e. lack of sleep, racing thoughts, and impulsive and irresponsible decisions, can be a sign that our D.N.s are running wild and unchecked, and are essentially calling all the shots.

Bipolar disorder is uncommon, with around 1.5% of Canadian adults meeting the criteria in the last 12 months, according to Stats Canada in 2012. Another thing that is often happening when someone thinks they “are soooo bipolar” is that their emotions feel unpredictable/all over the place because their limiting beliefs (L.B.s) are being triggered. When this happens, our emotions can change on a dime and go from 0-100 in what seems like the blink of an eye.

If your “bipolar” looks like the following, you may want to think about checking your L.B.s:

  • You think things are great with your new boyfriend and you have a lovely date, it’s all going good, but then he mentions he has to go to an event with his boys on a night that you tentatively had plans together. You’re suddenly so pissed but because you want to still seem attractive, you do that shut down, “I’m. fine.” thing and silent stew to yourself for the rest of the night. Or, you say screw it and tear him a new one on the spot, then feel immense guilt and shame immediately after.
  • You work your ass off all day to perform at the highest level so you can get that raise and be a solid provider for your family, but you walk through the door at the end of your busy day and your wife has forgotten your dry-cleaning that you need for tomorrow. Your level of frustration goes through the roof like THAT. Does she not know how hard you work and yet she can’t do this one freaking thing for you!?
  • You spend all day cleaning the house and trying to have a nice dinner ready for your husband and when he gets home he innocently asks if you picked up his dry-cleaning like you said you would. Immediately the rage bursts thru your brain. You literally Do. It. All. and are expected to make everything happen without any help but it is NEVER ENOUGH.
  • Or maybe you write out a long and thoughtful message to a friend and all they can muster is and unenthusiastic “thanks.” And you went from loving them to wanting to scream at your phone and never speak to that person again in the matter of one text…

After reading this, if you do think you have bipolar disorder, you should seek a referral from your general practitioner to see a psychiatrist. Otherwise, if you relate to the types of quick and instant mood changes discussed, it is likely that rather than being “sooo bipolar”, you are experiencing the immediate surge of emotion that comes when our L.B.s are triggered… and that’s where we come in!

Lindsay Sewall

Lindsay Sewall

Registered Therapist at Shift Psychological
Lindsay’s trained in: Anxiety and mood disorders, stress, trauma, relationship issues,
Lindsay Sewall

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