Questions about being bipolar


Questions about being bipolar


your avatar   Roni, 42-year-old woman

I am a 42-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with bipolar. I do have a very strong history of severe depression and according to my doctor, meet the criteria for bipolar disorder. I have had many suicidal attempts, the last leading to an incomplete spinal cord injury.

I can go for several days without sleep and feel more alert rather than tired a lot of the time (ending up with 10-hour workdays because I am not tired). I go through severe depressive episodes that can last quite a long time and I have a very hard time getting out of this state. (This actually being the more severe problem and definitely the one that occurs the most). I am also an alcoholic and polypharmacy abuser.

I just don't feel I know for sure that I am bipolar, and I am very frustrated and confused because I do not know enough about the disorder to make a real judgment for myself. I of course would not go against my doctor and stop the medications or disregard his treatments, but I do need some peace of mind for myself and have more clarity regarding the diagnosis I have been given.

What kind of symptoms might someone with bipolar have? I know there are probably a great number of them, but if I were to know about the more common ones perhaps I might be able to look at myself and see if I do have some of these characteristics. Also, I was wondering if some of the medications used to treat bipolar (e.g. Lithium, Lamictal, Seroquel) could make a person who does not have bipolar worse off, and if so what kind of symptoms might a person look for in such a case?

I am definitely having a struggle with the bipolar diagnosis and just need some clarity on the disorder itself. I am of course not asking that a diagnosis be made, I just need help understanding. Thank you for your help with this!


    Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, LPC, LISAC, DCC

Hi Roni,

I'm sorry to hear about how badly you have been feeling. What is very clear is that some form of mood disorder is going on and most likely the drugs or alcohol that you are using are an attempt to try and treat that underlying chemical condition. I would caution you however about this chemical abuse. The drugs and alcohol might make you feel better in the short run but are bound to make whatever chemical condition that exists underneath much worse. It will also make it very difficult for your doctor to figure out what is going on.

Most people that I have worked with who have bipolar disorder also tend to abuse alcohol and drugs. However, so do people with depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder. Bipolar disorder is inherently difficult to diagnose even for a mental health professional. It is usually misdiagnosed as anxiety or depression. This is understandable because the full cycle of depression and mania happen over a significant amount of time. To make matters even more confusing there are several different types of bipolar disorder

When a person is depressed they tend to have appetite and sleep disturbances, short-term memory loss, a lack of concentration, a depressed mood, a disturbed sense of self-esteem, and at times suicidal feelings. In the manic phase the client tends to have rapid speech, accelerated thought processes, and either a grossly irritated mood or euphoric mood. Often the bipolar sufferer has insomnia for days. They become impulsive, often grandiose, and act in ways that they would not usually do. They can become sexually promiscuous in a way that is uncharacteristic for them, spend massive amounts of money that they do not have, travel spontaneously, and make snap decisions that are not well thought out. At times, a person can become delusional and psychotic with visual and auditory hallucinations. If these symptoms occur periodically then bipolar disorder is likely. If it is something that is rather continual, then attention deficit disorder is probable.

Most of the medications for bipolar disorder are anti-convalescents or mood stabilizers. They do a very good job of evening out the moods, but often have very uncomfortable side effects. These can include weight gain, lethargy, headaches, and irritability. These medications have to be monitored with a blood test because they can be damaging to the liver if given in inappropriate doses or over too long a period of time. They can also be overly sedating if given when bipolar disorder is not present, so you are correct about that supposition.

I hope you have found this helpful and I would also suggest that you read a book on the subject. I always suggest that to my clients. I believe strongly that health care should be a partnership between the clinician and the client.

Good luck.


This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit:


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