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The 9 Worst Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder We Don’t Talk About

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When you hear the words “bipolar disorder,” what do you think? Do you think of mood swings, instability, “split personalities” or any number of the other misconceptions and stigmas surrounding the disorder? Do you imagine the soaring highs of mania and the crushing lows of depression, and never knowing when one will become the other?

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Or, do you think of the parts nobody ever talks about — the symptoms that those living with bipolar struggle keep in secret for fear of judgment or misunderstanding? Bipolar disorder is tough to deal with no matter how you look at it, but we wanted to talk to our mental health community about what they consider to be the “worst” symptoms they face and never speak about openly. We’re not saying bipolar disorder is all bad; rather, there are some aspects that can be particularly difficult for those living with it.

Remember: bipolar disorder does not make anyone a bad person, no matter who they are or how their disorder affects them. If you have a loved one with bipolar, please treat them with the same love and compassion as you would someone with any other health condition. If you live with bipolar, know you are not alone in your fight, no matter how alone and different your symptoms might make you feel. You’ve got this.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. Hypersexuality

Hypersexuality in mania. It’s never talked about. So many people never realize it’s a symptom and a pretty horrible one. It can cause a person to be unfaithful through no fault of their own and people won’t ever understand that because they don’t realize it’s the illness, not the person. (Fortunately. I never have.) It’s also a horrible feeling, to constantly want to have sex, no matter what.” — Amy W.

“Hypersexuality. Constantly second-guessing myself in relationships because I have random thoughts throughout the day that make me feel dirty and unfaithful in my relationship, and not knowing whether I will be able to control them or not.” — Cassandra M.

2. Lack of Impulse Control

“Impulse control. If I see something and I want it, I just get it, regardless if it was in my budget or not.” — Hannah G.

“I think the worst one would be the impulsivity control: always either doing something and regretting it or not doing something and also regretting it…” — Emily E.

“Impulses. They are so so bad. I can’t tell you the amount of debt I’ve gotten myself into because of it. I learned too little, too late that credit cards are one of the biggest mistakes someone with bipolar disorder can make.” — Cristi B.

3. Anger

“The anger in combination with depression is awful. It’s also the symptom that shows up and gets blamed in people described as ‘off their meds.’ It’s that stigma to bipolar which leads to people not getting treatment, and that’s dangerous.” — Kathleen B.

“The extreme anger. It is just miserable. I don’t mean to be so angry but it just engulfs me sometimes. I can go from extremely happy to angry over the littlest things. It’s horrible. It makes me feel like the worst person alive.” — Rebecca S.

“I had a concussion that kicked my bipolar II into high gear, and I had actual rage episodes. I would black out and rage out according to my husband. I don’t remember them but I would be tired and sore after. My doctor said that can happen with bipolar and because my brain was overactive with the head injury, it was more extreme at the time. Now I just get ‘regular’ angry.” — Carrie M.

4. Mixed Episodes

“Being in a half-manic, half-depressed state. Like being too depressed to truly function but having so much energy, needing to do something. It’s like I’m fighting myself and losing on both sides.” — Kirsten D.

“Mixed episodes are miserable. I have too much energy, but at the same time, I feel down. It is a dangerous place to be.” — Elizabeth V.

5. Obsession

“Obsession. It can lead to a number of different vices. Some people turn to alcohol or drugs or dangerous habits. I obsess more over things or certain people. For example, if I am obsessed with a movie, I will buy every single thing I see that has something from that movie printed on it or is related to the movie. In depression, it hurts more if you obsess over a specific person and they don’t respond the way you hope they do or with as much attention as you are giving them. Then, you keep replaying it over and over in your head, so irritability and suicidal thoughts start to creep in.” — Lieryn B.

“The inability to let go. Definitely obsessing over the smallest of details and not being able to do anything to make the situation right.” — Amanda M.

“Obsession. When I find an activity I like — it can be as simple as coloring or something like mountain biking — it is the only thing I want to do. I’ll read anything I can on whatever it is I’m currently obsessed with. These obsessions can last a few weeks or a few months. Once I’m done obsessing over the activity, I’ll never do it again.” — Monica L.

6. Paranoia

“Paranoia. I used to be terrified there were cameras and listening devices all over my house — that people could hear and watch me, that I was being judged 24/7. I spent so much time on rituals to check every nook and cranny in my house. It was exhausting.” — Meghann L.

“Paranoia is terrible. I always feel like there’s some listening or viewing device somewhere. It just gets worse when I’m experiencing an episode.” — Brandy B.

“Paranoia. I’ve ruined so many good relationships and friendships over being paranoid. I constantly thought they were only friends with me because they felt bad for me or because I would be spontaneous in my manic episodes and buy them things. When I couldn’t take it in my head anymore, I would say something and they would say I’m ‘crazy’ for thinking that. Then it would just get worse because then I thought they thought I’m ‘crazy.’” — Alyssa R.

7. The “Bipolar Crash

“The crash after manic episodes. I sink into an extremely deep depression with fatigue/lack of energy, lose all interest in doing things I love, struggle concentrating and sometimes deal with suicidal thoughts. It can last for days, weeks and once in a while even months.” — Katy L.

“When you’re riding such a good emotional high that you begin to wonder if you’re better… and then you crash into a low and it’s a reminder all over again that you’re never going ‘be better.’” — Jessi W.

“The crushing depression after euphoric mania. It breaks your spirits after finally having felt great for however long.” — Linsey L.

8. Fear of Depression or Mania Returning

“When I’ve actually gotten to the point where I feel ‘stable’ or somewhat ‘normal,’ the constant fear that the depression is gonna rear its ugly head again and kick my ass is terrifying. It’s the uncertainty and unpredictably that get me the most.” — Chris P.

“You never know when it’s going to hit, or how bad it’s going to be, or how long it’s going to last. The thought of having to deal with the mania and depression for the rest of my life is slightly terrifying.” — Erica K.

9. Anxiety and Uncertainty

“The constant state of anxiety, even when everything is going well. Wondering if I look as ‘crazy’ or anxious on the outside as I feel on the inside.” — Chrissy K.

“The uncertainty. Will I be hypomanic for a week and have a spotless house and be unrealistically happy? Will I be depressed for three months and lose my job or spouse or will to live? I make all these great plans while I’m full of energy and positivity, only to wake up the next day feeling like I don’t have the energy to even make a meal or take a shower.” — Case T.

What would you add? Let us know in the comments below.

Originally published: July 2, 2018
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