What's It Like to Be Bipolar?

People with bipolar disorder often have unstable attitudes and drastic mood swings. Their condition is often be confused with depression.
What's It Like to Be Bipolar?

Last update: 07 May, 2021

Bipolar disorder is one of the mood disorders that involves great complexity when it comes to defining it as well as addressing it, explains Julia Márquez Arrico, PhD in Clinical Psychology. Therefore, it’s common for many to wonder what the mind of a bipolar person is like.

First of all, it’s important to understand that bipolar disorder isn’t a choice or a ‘way of being’. Nor is it a multiple or dual personality disorder, as these are different condition.

Bipolar people have no difficulty identifying themselves, but their mood swings are so drastic that the person’s behaviors may switch from one extreme to the other and be difficult to explain.

The bipolar mind

A woman with bipolar disorder.

Diagnosing this condition is very complicated, particularly because the patient often resists help. It’s made more difficult by their unstable behavior.

At the same time, it’s important to note that bipolar disorder can be confused with other problems, such as depression.

To diagnose a person with bipolar disorder, a professional will need to assess them over a long period of time. Though the illness has no permanent cure, it’s possible (and feasible) to treat it through therapy and by modifying the person’s daily activities. 

  • It’s highly recommended that people with this condition exercise, attend psychological therapy, and practice yoga or another activity that relaxes them.
  • Above all else, they should surround themselves with people who understand them and give them a lot of affection.

Environment will play a fundamental role in their treatment since, due to their condition, it’s common for bipolar patients to refuse to receive medical help.

The behavior of a person with bipolar disorder

Keep in mind that only a professional can determine whether or not a person’s attitudes can be considered part of a bipolar disorder or other psychological problem.

Therefore, consider the following attitudes as guidelines, which may indicate that a person may have bipolar disorder.

1. Drastic mood swings

Mood swings.

Bipolar disorder involves drastic changes in mood. Someone with bipolar disorder may move from a state of uncontrollable euphoria to a state of deep turmoil in the blink of an eye. Such a change can be triggered by very simple things that might seem insignificant to a more mentally stable person.

A person with bipolar disorder may also spend a long period of time in one particular mood, whether stable, depressive, or manic. But these mood swings don’t necessarily respond to specific situations or predictable patterns.

Sometimes, they feel fantastic for a good while. They feel full of energy, so much so that they don’t feel the need to sleep. In fact, they may go days without sleeping, while simultaneously being distracted and irritable.

This would be a phase of mania and consists of excessive behaviors: High sex drive, excess energy, and even aggression.

2 Mania or hypomania

Psychologist Beatriz Caballero explains that bipolar disorder “is characterized by mood swings, with phases of mania (euphoria), hypomania (euphoria of shorter duration) or mixed, which generally alternate with depressive episodes”.

During the mania phase, the person may experience a sort of overflowing euphoria, along with exaggerated self-esteem, difficulty maintaining attention, etc. They may also be much more talkative than usual.

At the same time, the person may experience a decreased need for sleep, psychomotor agitation, and impulsivity.

3. Sadness

A person with bipolar will feel very depressed. This will then bring about anxiety, sadness, pessimism, and strong feelings of frustration. They will also completely lose interest in everything, including things they loved during the manic phase.

For a person with this condition, it’s very frustrating not understanding the reason for their deep depression. This, then, can even result in suicidal thoughts.

A woman with depression leaning her head against a window.

Psychological support and therapy are crucial

Keep in mind that a person with bipolar disorder usually has very intense or extreme moods. We’re not here to judge them, but to support them and encourage them to seek psychological therapy, so that they can feel better and have the best possible quality of life.

Now that you know a little about the mind of a bipolar person, try to understand them and remember. Bipolar disorder isn’t a problem you should take lightly.

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  • Alejandro Koppmann, A. (2012). Sobre el diagnóstico de bipolaridad. Revista Médica Clínica Las Condes. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0716-8640(12)70348-6
  • Vieta, E. (2014). Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder. In Managing Bipolar Disorder in Clinical Practice, 3rd Edition and Guide to Assessment Scales in Bipolar Disorder, 2nd Edition.
  • PuedoSer, E. V. (2012). La hipomanía. Trastorno bipolar.
  • Geddes, J. R., & Miklowitz, D. J. (2013). Treatment of bipolar disorder. The Lancet. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)60857-0