I’m Depressed, Not Broken (3).

About every person I’ve spoken to about bipolar disorder has asked me, “But how do you know when what episode is happening?” The answer to that isn’t as simple as people would like to think. Most times we go into mental health with the mentality, “If you have a congested chest and a blocked nose you definitely have the flu.” This, this is never the case with anything mental health. If it relates to mental health you need to really know a person, know their usual habits and routine in order for you to notice even the slightest of changes.

There’s two phase to bipolar disorder, hence the name bipolar. There’s the manic phase then there’s the depressive phase. It might be somewhat easier to tell when a person’s depressed, true, but they’re in danger even when they’re experiencing mania or hypomania. Sometimes the risk in the manic phase is a lot higher as you’ll come to see and that’s a phase we almost can never tell unless we really know ourselves (if we’re the afflicted) or really know the person afflicted. The clinical depression symptoms seen with bipolar II disorder are the same as those seen in major depressive disorder. Here’s but a few:

  • Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Fatigue, decreased energy, being “slowed down”
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headachesdigestive disorders, and chronic pain
  • Persistently sad, anxious, or “empty” moods
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts”

Signs of hypomania in bipolar II disorder include:

  • Increased talking speed or volume
  • Disconnected and very fast (racing) thoughts
  • Grandiose beliefs
  • Inappropriate elation or euphoria
  • Inappropriate irritability
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Extreme focus on projects at work or at home
  • Exuberant and elated mood
  • Increased confidence
  • Increased creativity and productivity
  • Increased energy and libido
  • Reckless behaviors and poor judgment
  • Risky pleasure-seeking behaviors
  • Markedly increased energy

During these episodes, a person with bipolar disorder may act recklessly. Sometimes they go as far as endangering their own life or the lives of people around them. Remember that this person can’t fully control their actions during episodes of mania. Therefore, it’s not always an option to try to reason with them to try to stop behaving a certain way. The major takeaway from this should be that a person isn’t fully in control of their actions. When they’re contemplating suicide, that’s the disorder taking charge. When they’re taking extreme risks in their hypomania, that again is the disorder taking charge. Therefore, help is needed in both instances and it need be as nonjudgmental as nonjudgmental goes.



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