Hi. I am a 38-year-old female who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008. Since the age of 13, I have found myself depressed more often than not, with episodes of hypomania few and far between and intermittent periods of normalcy.
I sometimes have auditory and visual hallucinations, with the auditory ones occurring more frequently than the visual ones. I can usually identify them as being unreal — they sound like a radio that has been turned on very suddenly, then they fade as though the volume is gradually turned down. I also sometimes get strange and illogical ideas that I only recently realized are considered unusual. For example, I will feel like it’s really a different era than the present one, and as a result everything feels wrong – everyone is dressed wrong, the cars are all wrong, etc, because they don’t fit the era I feel like it is. I know that it isn’t really that era, but the idea persists, and I can’t shake it.
I have always been something of a loner, but recently I have gone beyond simply not wanting to be around people to feeling unsafe among them. They all somehow look and seem ominous, as do many environments such as bars, theaters, etc. Everyday objects also seem to have a “scary” edge to them, especially shadows. Even though I know it’s illogical, I often feel like someone is watching me or someone else is around when I know I’m alone. This feeling worsens at night. I’m suddenly very anxious around groups of people, whereas before I could just ignore them. Along with the new feelings of anxiety and fear, I intermittently find myself having difficulty putting my thoughts into sentences, and forgetting things. My memory has always been terrible, but it is much more so now. I feel generally confused and out of sorts most of the time. I often feel unreal or like what I’m experiencing is a dream, and while those feelings often go along with my depression, they are much more intense now.
I’m wondering — do all these things tie in with bipolar disorder? If so, why all of a sudden would they start after all this time? I am on no medications, for bipolarism or anything else, so I know it can’t be medication related.Bipolar?
Without thoroughly evaluating you in-person, I can’t determine if your symptoms are related to bipolar disorder. Only a clinician who conducted a thorough mental health evaluation could make that determination.
Your symptoms are concerning. As you noted, they are worsening. You described auditory hallucinations, a number of illogical thinking patterns, social isolation, paranoia, memory and other cognition problems. You may be experiencing psychosis. Psychosis is a break with reality.
It’s imperative that you are evaluated by a mental health professional. He or she can determine the nature and origin of your symptoms. After an evaluation, treatment will be recommended. In your case, they may suggest counseling and medication. Counseling can help you to stay grounded in reality. Medication is particularly effective in reducing symptoms of psychosis.
You should not ignore your symptoms. Psychosis generally does not improve on its own. Treatment is almost always required. Fortunately, there are very effective treatments for your symptoms. Early treatment of active psychosis is associated with positive outcomes. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle