Psych Central

Bipolar Disorder?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I think I have Bipolar Disorder and find it hard to talk to someone in person. Well basically looking back over the last 2-3 years ive shown all the classic symptoms of bipolar disorder. It started when i was sexually taken advantage of when under the infulence of alcohol, which then made me drink more, I was about… 15 at the time. I then took up smoking, and started showing signs of a developing eating disorder for roughly two months, as I got into what i know believe to be a depressive phase. My behaviour caused friends to resent me and family arguements at home. My mood shifted, and everyone assumed the “old me” was back. For a year the mood pattern continued, for a few months at a time, quite a slow paced cycle of moods.

Recently however, my moods have been rapidly changing, the pace started quickening from months, to weeks, days, and now i even seem to be experiencing extreme mood swings in one day. My work colleagues have picked up on my mood swings, and i can tell it is beginning to annoy them, I’m not sure how long it will take before it becomes an issue. At some points I experience both extreme sadness and happiness at the same time which is really confusing, and a lot of the time I can’t explain the cause of my moods.

Early this year, I was suffering with Bulimia, in what i think was a depressive episode, i don’t think the eating disorders are that dangerous to me, as soon as my mood shifts and i’m happy again, my eating habits return to normal, but it doesn’t stop me thinking about it returning, when i “relapse”, or however you’d like to word it.

I’ve been known not to leave the house for a week or two because my self esteem is so deflated, and with work i feel this is not possible. I block myself from the world and become hostile.
When i believe im manic, I become very sexually active and don’t think of the consequences i indulge in alot of strong alcohol, and my behaviour is disruptive.

I went to my doctor earlier this year and told him he referred me to a counceller, but i didn’t go because i found it really emotional just talking to my doctor about it, and i felt ashamed of my behaviour. I’m not sure if he took me seriously because I was so nervous I don’t think I worded it very well.

When I feel hyper, my brain races, and I believe I have the answer to all lifes questions, but obviously I don’t, I see it as I fall in love with myself again, meaning when im depressed i have self hatred which has lead me to cutting before and suicidal thoughts, but after normally a normal mood shift and I begin to experience “mania” my self esteem inflates, and I beleive I will be really successful, because I’m so brilliant. The changes of self doubt to over confidence is quite tiring. And i only feel i can talk about it when I am in quite a normal mood state.

On this site i took the bipolar screening quiz, these were my results: You scored a total of 60.
Based upon your responses to this bipolar screening quiz, you appear to be suffering from severe symptoms associated with a bipolar disorder. People who have answered similarly to you typically qualify for a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder and have sought professional treatment for this disorder.

I don’t want to tell my family, and i don’t want to disappoint anyone because of being mentally ill. I find this very draining, and just want some advice. I don’t see the need for diagnosis apart from councelling because i’m not going to take medicines. What do you think i should do? I’ve state everything that i can remember which is important from the top of my head. Thank you.

A. You asked what I think you should do and my answer is that you should seek treatment. It would be unethical to diagnose you over the Internet but your symptoms are characteristic of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a very treatable illness but if left untreated it can seriously compromise your life. I fear that it already has. You have experienced serious symptoms that require treatment.

I suspect that you don’t want to seek treatment, mainly because of fear. Maybe you’re unsure of what the treatment process would be like. Perhaps you have heard negative stories about psychiatric medication. You had a bad experience with attempting to see a doctor and that probably factors in as well. Fear can be crippling if you let it take over your life. Maybe if you knew more about the treatment of bipolar disorder you’d be more willing to attend. It might also be helpful if you spoke to individuals who have had treatment and who were successful in getting the illness under control.

There are several ways to access treatment for bipolar disorder. One is that you can see a therapist. The therapist could help you know whether you have bipolar disorder, identify the cycles of the disorder, learn how to recognize and manage the symptoms, and teach you better ways to manage your emotions. The therapist may also suggest medication, which is usually prescribed by a psychiatrist. Many individuals with bipolar disorder are able to tolerate the medication and find it very helpful. The main way it can help is that it can stabilize your emotions. It can provide relief from drastic mood changes or prevent them altogether. It seems like you currently have or have had in the past, extreme mood changes. They can make life difficult. A low dose of medication may be what is necessary to stabilize your mood. Mood stability could greatly improve your life.

I would suggest searching for an online bipolar disorder group or speaking to individuals who have bipolar disorder. Some people have found support groups very helpful. People like support groups because it makes them feel as though they are not alone. They can also see firsthand that recovery is possible. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) has groups across the country that hold meetings on a regular basis to discuss issues related to bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. You may want to consider attending one of their groups.

Another great resource can be found right here on Psych Central. Candida Fink, M.D. and Joe Kraynak write an informative blog about bipolar disorder. Visit their blog.

I understand that you do not want to seek treatment but I hope you will reconsider. Bipolar disorder does not go away on its own and if left untreated it can become progressively worse. You state at the end of your letter that you do not want to disappoint anyone by being mentally ill. I’m not certain why you think being mentally ill would be a disappointment. You are making the assumption that being mentally ill is your fault, as though you chose to be mentally ill. Mental illness happens to people and it is not something that people do to themselves intentionally. Anyone who would be angry at you for having bipolar disorder simply does not understand the nature of mental illness. The only right course of action at this point is to seek treatment even if you are afraid. You don’t want the illness to become worse. I hope you will consider treatment.

If you’d like to find a therapist in your community I would encourage you to search this directory. A good way to find a therapist is to call approximately 5 to 10 and speak to them about what your issues are. Perhaps if you spoke with several therapists on the phone you may feel less apprehensive about meeting them in person. Thank you for your question and I wish you the best of luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Bipolar Disorder?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/01/bipolar-disorder/

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