“OMG, I seriously think I'm Bipolar!” I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say that. They have mood swings so they assume they MUST be bipolar. 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:
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 stuff 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 so 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:
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 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!
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