Depression or Bipolar?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m not really sure where to start. For about 4-5 years I’ve alternated between depression and a very hyper and (usually) happy mood. The depression usually lasts a few weeks, sometimes a month or so. The hyper mood rarely lasts as long, usually a week or two.

I usually think about suicide a little when I’m depressed, and seriously consider it every few months but talk myself out of it because I know I’ll feel better eventually. (I also know I’ll get depressed again, but I don’t think about that when I feel that way.) Occasionally it will seem like I’m sort of disconnected from everything, like everthing is hazy, like in a dream although I know what’s real and whats not. Once it got so bad that I started to believe my mom was keeping me at home forever (I’m homeschooled) and would kill me if I tried to escape or found out about her “plan”, and that my brother was part of it(not true at all by the way). Other than that I don’t know what else to say about it, I guess it’s mostly just typical depression. Now I’ll explain the hyper mood.
It starts with me not being tired at all and just feeling silly.

I can sleep 0-5 hours a night for several days and still not be tired. It seems like I do everything faster, and after a little while it gets annoying because everything else seems too slow and starts to get boring/frustrating. I get distracted almost constantly by how fast I think. My thoughts are loosely connected by one detail of each thought, or I make up conversations I’d like to have with people (almost like daydreaming). It used to get so weird that I would start to believe impossible or nearly impossible things. When I was about 13 I learned one song on guitar and believed i would be the most famous guitarist in the world by the time I turned 14. I once believed invisible cameras were following me and somehow recording what I did then to be used in interview or something in the future when I would be on TV. Similar things like that happened alot until I was about 15, I still daydream like that alot but never believe it as much as I used to. Colors seem brighter and its like I’m aware of everything. Sounds, smells, peoples conversations, basically everything becomes clearer. Recently its been more anger and anxiety than happiness, especially after several days of it. That’s all I can think of for explaining that part.

Ive occasionally heard things in either/both moods. Usually just noises or my name. Sometimes I get really angry, sometimes over very little things. When I was younger I would throw/break things when I got really mad, after awhile my mom nearly made me go to therapy so I learned to stop throwing/breaking things but I still get just as mad. It usually feels like I can’t control it, like the anger takes over me completely.
My family history:

Ive occasionally heard it mentioned that my dad is bipolar, but I dont know for sure because I havent asked him.
grandma, aunt and uncle on antidepressants (dont know exactly why)
Cousin that attemped suicide once (also dont know why)
other cousin that was kicked out of the coast gurd for some mental or emotional issue (again dont know exactly what/why)
grandmas brother that was severely depressed almost his whole life
Thats all I remember.

Because of my dad I’ve taken the bipolar quiz on this site and I scored a 43, but I’m not taking it too seriously because its just a quiz.
Well thats it, sorry its really long but I tried to put as much detail as possible. Thanks for reading this.

A. If you are a regular reader of my column then you know that it is difficult for me to give an individual a reliable diagnosis over the Internet. Based on your letter it is possible that you have bipolar disorder. You have described periods of depression and mania. What you describe as being “a hyper mood” is fairly consistent with the description of mania. If you would like to read more about the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder please click this link.

What can and should you do? Make an appointment with a mental health professional. He or she could help you determine if you meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You may want to choose a mental health professional who specializes in the treatment of bipolar disorder.

After you have been evaluated discuss with the clinician what type of treatment would be best for you. I would not recommend ignoring your symptoms. Aside from the fact that you may have bipolar disorder my concern is that you have suicidal thoughts. Individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to attempt and complete suicide. This potentially places you at a higher risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts need to be taken very seriously. I would advise anyone who is having thoughts of suicide to see a mental health professional immediately.

Writing a letter is a starting point but more needs to be done. I hope you will follow through and make an appointment with a mental health professional. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to write back. Lastly, here is a link to the Psychology Today website where you can search for a therapist in your community. I wish you well.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Mar 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Depression or Bipolar?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/03/31/depression-or-bipolar-3/

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