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7 'Habits' of People With Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder can be chaotic, especially if your manic and depressive episodes swing rapidly. Sometimes it feels like there’s no balance in our lives, so we do things to cope with ever-changing moods.

Habits are one way we can find consistency. Sometimes we use them to lessen our symptoms such as sticking to a routine. But certain habits can be a manifestation of bipolar disorder, too. There are things we might do that we would rather not, but can’t control.

As someone with bipolar, I’ve often wondered if others have the same habits I do. Do they also repeat things over and over again in their head? Do they plan out their days or establish a routine in hopes of adding some stability?

I also struggle with sensory overload and have to use noise-canceling headphones or stay away from certain fabrics. Who knew noise and textures could be so irritating. I often have to retreat to a quiet room when I feel irritation or “bipolar rage” coming on.

What may seem like quirks to others are actually things we do in response — or because of — bipolar disorder. We may not realize some of our habits have to do with bipolar until we talk to others going through the same thing.

Maybe that “weird” thing you do won’t seem so weird after all. We were interested in learning what habits people have because of bipolar disorder, so we asked our bipolar disorder community about theirs.

Here’s what our community had to say: 

1. Forgetting anything and everything.

“I write ungodly amounts of lists everywhere, so I don’t forget just to forget…” — Samantha F.

“I have an alarm for everything. I have to set reminders for things like cooking dinner, taking showers, cleaning, etc. An alarm goes off every few hours to remind me which task I should be doing. I have learned that keeping a consistent schedule is the most important part of managing my illness.” — Faith V.

“Forgetting everything. I’m either too depressed, or my brain is racing too fast to retain the information.” — Caleb H.

2. Worrying about future mood changes.

“Never trusting my emotions/always questioning them. ‘Am I sad or falling into depression?’ ‘Will this pass?’ ‘Am I going into a manic episode or do I just have a lot of energy today?’ ‘Am I really just happy? Or is this mania coming on?’ Every emotion I ever get I always question if it’s true or just a sign that I’m falling into an episode.” — Erica K.

“I don’t trust if I’m just happy. I constantly worry about going hypomanic or manic.” — Sarah M.

“I constantly worry about the next episode. I second-guess a bad day as the start of depression and second-guess the great days as impending mania. It’s a struggle, the fear is always there.” — Amy W.

“With bipolar it seems like I can’t just have a good day or bad day like everyone else. Those days come with worry whether the day is a sign of impending doom from another manic or depressive phase.” — Ray R.

3. Talking a lot or really fast.

“Consistently interrupting people during hypomania because I get unbearably excited about what I have to say or making a two minute story last 15 minutes because I can’t concentrate on what I’m actually trying to say.” — Hannah G.

“When I get nervous I will talk way too much and get way too personal, until after I leave the area I feel super embarrassed and start thinking they probably think I’m ‘crazy’! It can ruin my mood quick.” — Jacob M.

“When manic, I will repeat myself over and over not realizing it. The words don’t sound right. Also in messaging, I will be long-winded and send multiple messages at once when normally I am very short in my speech to conserve energy.” — Shannon H.

“Not having the ability to be tactful when I talk to anyone. I have no filter between my brain and my mouth. And it constantly gets me into trouble. However I have started to go by the saying that, ‘I’m only responsible for what I say, not for how you interpret it!’ I also have great difficulty putting my thoughts into words in the first place.” — Jenni G.

4. Repeating behaviors (either as a way to cope or an inability to stop).

“Writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and writing.” — Laura E.

“Sometimes I rock back and forth or jerk my knee nonstop.” — Sarah P.

“I could literally hear the voice of God. I will walk and walk and walk. Or even clean and clean and clean.” — Patricia A.

“I snap my fingers a lot; I guess it’s a sort of stim that I use to try and calm myself when my mania starts kicking in with my nervous energy that eventually leads to anxiety. There are even times where I snap if I’m just standing around.” — Chantel S.

“I chew gum. Relentlessly. Some people jump their leg around or pace. I chew gum. It’s like my nervous tick, but it calms me. Helps me focus.” — Allison S.

5. Finding ways to handle sensory overload.

“I get super mad about certain sounds that seem magnified to me.” — Sarah P.

“I have to make sure my blanket is laying flat and untangled before bed. If my blanket gets tangled, I feel trapped and don’t sleep, which makes my episodes worse.” — Shannon D.

6. Using substances to cope.

“Drinking while in a depressive phase.” — Laura E.

7. Isolating yourself.

“Total isolation and social withdrawal while at home but super active at work… for months at a time sometimes.” — Camilla G.

“During depression swings, constantly showing up excessively late to things because the motivation simply isn’t there, and it’s a crisis to get myself out of bed.” — Sami S.

“I’ve been feeling so insecure with my bipolar for several months to the point I don’t trust myself. Used to be I could detect when an episode was happening, but no more. I’ve chosen isolation to not expose others to it, because of the backlash and shaming I get.” — Lisa H.

Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder often mean finding ways to cope in the throes of it, but bipolar disorder can be unpredictable. The very nature of it can cause us to develop habits, whether we like them or not. Sometimes we’re forced to become hypervigilant about our moods, which might make it hard to enjoy the good moods when they come. We may have habits we don’t quite understand, but maybe some of the above habits will help you feel like you’re not alone.

Is there a habit you have because of bipolar disorder you’d like to share? Tell us below in the comments.

Photo via Getty Images/lolostock