25 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You Have Bipolar Disorder


People see bipolar disorder as binary: you’re either up or down, manic or depressed. But actually living with these highs and lows is a more complicated story, and people in your life might not realize all the ways bipolar affects you, for better or for worse.

To find out how bipolar manifests in ways you might not expect, we asked people with bipolar disorder in our community to tell us one thing people don’t realize they’re doing because of bipolar disorder. 

Here’s what they shared with us: 

  1. “Not talking. When things start getting bad, I push people away so they don’t see the ugly side. Talking, even texting people I really care about, becomes a monumental task that seems impossible. I’ve ruined a lot of friendships and relationships this way and when things get better, I never know how to apologize or make them see I wasn’t intending to hurt and alienate them.” — Alex F.
  2. “I sleep during the day sometimes. A friend will call and with a judgmental tone they’ll say, ‘Were you sleeping?’ Just another person who doesn’t understand.” — Rose J.
  3. “Living with bipolar disorder, I experience mixed episodes where I’m manic but I’m having depressing feelings and thoughts. When this happens, I try to push myself through it, but many people don’t know I actually force myself to embrace the sadness, cry endlessly, put myself down and fantasize about suicide to get through the mixed episode. I don’t want people to think since I’m thinking about suicide that I’m suicidal because I’m not. Just the thoughts help me relieve the depression.” — Samantha W.
  4. “Working twice as much, respecting every deadline, so I can never be judged for my condition. Always have a smile to hide my pain. Listen to everyone so they never experience loneliness.” — Joana R.
  5. “People assume if I’m cheerful and energetic that everything’s fine. They don’t realize that being too cheerful and energetic is just as dangerous for me as the severe depression.” — Denver D.
  6. “People don’t understand how I can go from being cheerful and approachable for a week or so, to all of a sudden to grumpy, weepy or really snappy the next. They expect someone to be the same week-to-week. You just can’t do that with bipolar. You are an unwilling rider on an emotional roller coaster.” — Kristi C.
  7.  “Cleaning for 12 hours straight isn’t my OCD. My mania from bipolar type 1 sends me on such a ‘high up’ that my sleep is at a zero and my activity is at 100. People don’t understand. They say, ‘Go to bed earlier or try something relaxing before bed like a bath, lavender oil in a warmer, etc.’ None of these work when I am manic. I just cannot sleep. I don’t feel tired at all. Then, when I crash, I sleep for 12 hours or more and get told by family (my parents. Thank goodness my spouse is understanding and supportive) and friends that I sleep too much. They just don’t understand the disorder at all.” — Moon N.
  8. “I self-medicate when I’m manic.” — Jeffrey T.
  9. “Full-blown mania gives me sensory hypersensitivity. It gets so bad that being in a restaurant freaks me out. Mood lighting, background noise and even flavorful food makes me feel so intense and uncomfortable I feel like I might explode. My boyfriend can’t touch me without me feeling that way. The best place for me to be is in my dark bedroom wrapped up in blankets like a burrito.” — Rachel H.
  10. “I get angry and irritated very easily when I’m in an episode. I will yell and/or cry over the tiniest things. I will also not accept things not done the way I want them or not done as fast as I want them. I don’t mean to say mean things, and after the episode is over, I feel extremely guilty.” — Christina G.
  11. “I’ve been told I’m extremely laid back and I often ‘go with the flow.’ In reality, I’ve either just given up on everything or I’m very paranoid and nervous.” — Alexandra S.
  12. “Not doing as much as everyone else. Relaxing a lot. Napping. Managing my stress any way I can, which sometimes looks like laziness.” — Karin J.
  13. “Keeping myself constantly busy. I can’t stand to be idle, left alone with my thoughts. That’s when I resort to negative coping strategies. So I’m always involved in five different projects, or hanging out with friend after friend.” — Steph C.
  14. “Don’t take a shower, clean, eat, talk, they think I’m just gross and lazy. If they only knew the battle I go through daily in my head. I want to do all these things but it’s like A 10,000 pound weight sitting on me and won’t let me up. Sometimes it’s even hard to breathe.” — Alicia S
  15. “Being irrational but knowing that I’m acting irrational, but I can’t stop. It is physically painful to stop myself from ranting and acting foolish. It is a reason why I recently lost my fiancé. I took a lot of my irrational behavior out on him. A lot of people think I just have a temper. I don’t, I’m actually pretty peaceful. But for some reason the smallest things, if I’m already overwhelmed, makes me feel like a monster. And I hate it.” — Alyssa H.
  16. “Always sitting with my back to a wall and as far from the door as possible. I constantly feel like people are watching me and judging me so when someone is standing or sitting behind me, I freak out and get really irritable.” — Caleb S.
  17. Incessant talking and being way too forthcoming with personal information or whatever random thought flits into my head. Usually things that don’t need to be voiced aloud. I always end up embarrassed after the fact, although sometimes it takes until my mania wears off. Also typical issues relating to hypersexuality. So that’s fun.” — Sami P.
  18. “Trying even harder to be perfect in every aspect of everything so that no one will see my bipolar shining through. I’m an over-the-top mom, working 50+ hours a week, making dinner from scratch and making sure breakfast is in the fridge to be warmed up the next day. Perfection is key.” — Stacy R.
  19. “I’ll say yes to something one day and the next day no to the same thing and end up arguing about it. I will have weeks of one mood at varying degrees and the next week be the complete opposite and end up fighting about it. Sometimes it will be a month or five of one mood then change to the opposite for a month and fight about it. Happiness is very short-lived for me I’m never happy for more than two minutes. But my depression can last for weeks.” — Raven M.
  20. “I can’t handle criticism, I know it’s someone trying to give an opinion but I take it as an attack and react as such. Then focus on the negative of it for hours on end.” — Melissa R.
  21. “Talking too much. When I’m manic I seem to talk a lot, but it makes me sound like I am drunk… I am talking so much and so fast that it all blurs together.” — Christina G.
  22. “I shut down and ignore everyone when my mind starts racing. It’s like I only hear singular thoughts between hundreds of thoughts rushing so fast in my head, I can’t even outwardly express myself. I’ve completely internalized myself at this point. It pisses off my fiancé a lot.” — Sarah C.
  23. “Self-sabotage. Any time things are going well, I begin to question it. Pick at it. And inevitably… Derail it. Destroy it.” — Fidget Z.
  24. “Risk-taking behavior… Anything to get a rush. I’m surprised I’ve lived this long.” — Casey D.
  25. “Constant dialogue going on in my head. Myself warring with myself. It makes it hard to listen sometimes, but I try.” — Kara J.

What would you add?

Photo by micah. on Unsplash


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