Bipolar? Seeking Info...

Updated on August 08, 2011
N.G. asks from Arlington, TX
7 answers

Hi ladies,

My husband and I have been going to a marriage counselor for a couple of months now and she has gotten to know us pretty well. At our last session, we were discussing my up and down moods- she had given me a chart to chart my moods- and based on the info I gave her about my cyclical mood swings, she thinks that I have bipolar. She didn't say what degree or what type, but she is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, so she is not able to diagnose anyway. She recommended that I get an appt. with a psychiatrist for proper diagnosis/treatment, which I did (I have an appt. August 29th).

My question is, what does bipolar look like? What are the differences between the types? I can google it all day long, but what does it really feel like? Is it different for everybody? Just looking for some info from people who have experience with bipolar so I have a bit of insight before going to the psych.

Thanks!

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J.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

The psychologist can diagnose but not prescribe. Too, as you are seeing her for marriage counseling, she probably wanted an outside source to make "official" diagnosis to separate her role with you vs. psychiatrist.

She may also want you to see your MD for a thorough examination. Is she hasn't requested this of you, she should have. Thyroid can play a part in this.

Anyway, it does look different for everybody: Rapid cycling, seasonal cycling, cyclothymia, etc, etc. What is important is that you do keep good track of your own cycling. Often though, those in the midst of cycling have a very different perspective (esp in manic state) than those around them. Could be an interesting experiment to have your husband or someone you see daily to rate your moods as well.

Some practical symptoms you may notice in mania: how fast you drive, how fast your thoughts may be, how many hours do you sleep, if you sleep, how fast your talk, how well are you able to listen, how fun do you feel...

Same with depression: what is your outlook for the future, etc etc

Some people can have dramatic cycling, others, less so but may more depression.

There are chat boards where you can discuss and get a feel for other's experience with bipolar, but I would strongly urge you to start your own journal so that you are in tune with your own experience.

May add more when I see what others have written. Very important topic to me.

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K.P.

answers from New York on

Everything Jen L said! She can diagnose you, but in all reality it wouldn't be ethical. She's treating you as a "couple" and a new issue has arisen and she has referred you to a specialist (who can prescribe). To make an accurate diagnosis, the psychiatrist will need that journal as well as an extensive history and medical review.

Bipolar looks and feels different for every client, but with the right medication and continued therapy (and support of your husband), you can lead a very happy and healthy life! Essentially, Bipolar involves fairly consistent cycling between moods... Mania to Depression and everything in between. Some people have a rapid cycle (hour-to-hour or day-to-day) and some have very slow cycles, but the point is that there is not necessarily a "trigger" so much as a predictable pattern of mood and behavior that indicates that a person in going into either "pole" of the cycle.

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G.S.

answers from New York on

I was diagnosed bipolar in 93' & have been on medication ever since, except for one time I thought it was everyone else that had a problem & decided to stop taking my meds......big mistake - ended up full blown manic and spent our down payment we had saved for our house. When I was first hospitalized in 93' I was on the low end of things and put on anti-depressants but then a year later spun to the manic side from the anti-depressants. Since 94' I have been on lithium, which is a medication that has worked wonders for most of the family members also diagnosed bipolar in my family. I had one time where they had taken me off of it because of some issues w/my kidneys, however that was all rectified and I have not had any issues since. My psychiatrist orders blood work to be done every few months, along w/my lithium level & monitors this as well. I have highs & lows, but a lot of the goings on have to be questioned as follows - what is your illness, personality, environment. Kind of the same as with when I see bipolar in my daughters (7 & 13), is it them, is it truly bipolar, or is it me seeing it in them. You are doing the best thing by going to see a psychiatrist and honestly don't look too far into the diagnosis. The medications can be somewhat difficult to master, it took a few months for them to get me on the right medication(s) at first and then they changed it a year later, but don't give up. As far as the differences in bipolar, I know they exist, but I'm not even sure which is which, I just know that I have bipolar disorder and I do what I need to control it. I see my psychiatrist every 6-8 weeks (I call him in between if necessary) - I am more honest w/him then I am anyone else because without being so, what can I truly expect him to do for me), I journal, I go to individual therapy and I try not to lose sight of the fact that just because I'm bipolar, it doesn't limit my capabilities. Best of luck to you. If you have any questions, u can always email me at [email protected]____.com.

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M.H.

answers from Raleigh on

My husband is bipolar, so while it is not me, I am the spouse that has to handle the mood swings. My husband's bipolar has cycles of "normal", cycles of depression, and cycles of mania. He was diagnosed at the age of 13 and is almost 30 now, so he has been dealing with it for quite some time. His cycles of "normal" are now almost all of the time (about 95% of the time), but that has taken years of medication, therapy, and hard work to get to where he is.

When we first met, though, things were VERY different. He would go through a depression every 3 months or so. They would last for approximately a week. During this time it was next to impossible to get him to do anything other than lay in his bed. He refused to answer the phone or door, and didn't want to leave his apartment for any reason what so ever. He was like a big baby and the only way I could get him to interact with me is if I forced him to look me in the eye.

His mania usually occurred 2-3 weeks after an episode of depression. During this time, my husband is INSANELY talkative, has a hard time sleeping, tends to be hypo-sexual, but the thing I need to watch for is his temper. My "normal" husband is very laid back and lets me call most of the shots, my manic husband gets annoyed easily, picks a fight quickly, and can be downright nasty (has called me names a man should never call his wife).

I am not going to lie, it is hard to deal with my husband when he is manic or depressed, but I remind myself that I am here in sickness or in health, that MY husband would never say or do the things that he does during his episodes, and that when he "comes back" to me, all will be fine again. I hope you get the help that you need, and if you have any questions, please feel free to PM me. :)

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M.B.

answers from Orlando on

Sorry your are going through this! This is a very tough thing to have,my child is bipolar Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) which means he doesn't follow the patterns in type 1 or 2. I couldn't even imagine going through what he does at such a young age or any age for that matter. I really hope you get the answers and start on a road to happiness and stability

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

My husband has cyclothymia, which is a mild form of bi-polar. It is characterized by short periods of "up" mood (for a few days or maybe a week or two) followed by several weeks of even a couple of months of depression, followed by "normal" for a while, then the cycle repeats.

His depression was diagnosed many, many years ago and while not crippling, it's pretty obvious - crabby, anti-social, sleeps a lot, can be hungry but doesn't enjoy what he eats or has no appetite, no sex drive, withdraws from relationships, hates his job, the whole world sucks, complains that he's fat and tired and worthless and stupid and lazy and bored, etc. Sometimes it hits like a freight train and I know the The Depression Monster has arrived and taken over. One day I talked to him in the car as he was on his way home and he was fine, making plans for dinner etc. Not 30 minutes later he was home and in bed, and that down period lasted almost 10 weeks. Other times it takes me a few days of crabbiness to realize that it's not me, it's not even him, it's the illness.

The hypomanic side was harder to see - sometimes it looks like ADHD (which he also has) and other times, he just seemed to be a much more energetic version of himself. During these periods he's very happy, productive, energetic, social, starts lots of projects, and seems to be firing on all cylinders. The balanced side of this cycle is how I am all the time and what I fell in love with. But the dark side of the hypomania is there too - these are the times that he makes major impulse purchases (cars, motorcycles, boats), quits his job to pursue something commission only (which never works out), or, earlier in our marriage, slept with other people.

He is now and will forever be off of anti-depressants in the SSRI class, which used to make things worse. He has also had bad luck with ADHD meds so he doesn't treat that with medication anymore. He was on lithium for several months last year but then had a reaction to that and has been on Depakote ever since (both are old-school medications that are fairly easy to manage vs. some of the newer ones).

When bipolar is crippling it's pretty easy to see and diagnose - but when it's mild it can be very hard to get an accurate diagnosis. Lifestyle changes certainly help but just about every study I've ever seen says that with a cyclical mood disorder, medication it almost always a part of regaining control of the patient's life.

The complicating factor for diagnosing anything cyclical for women is that we have our hormone cycles to deal with, so do be careful that whoever you see for a further diagnosis has a lot of experience in figuring out the difference between mood swings caused by a mood disorder vs. hormonal changes. If you've been keeping a log then hopefully any relationships between your mood and your cycle will be pretty obvious.

Best of luck to you - I have to say that having my husband's illness correctly diagnosed took him 25 years (he saw his first psychologist at 15, was diagnosed with depression in his 20s, ADHD in his 30s and with cyclythemia at 40) but he finally feels "normal" and it's been a huge help to me to know that we're dealing with an illness and not personality traits.

K.R.

answers from Dallas on

N. - I'm not bi-polar, but I was married to someone who was for 13 years. Personally, I sometimes think that people are told they are bi-polar, when they actually have anxieties or other issues. With my experience, it can be recognized as someone that has some REAL HIGHS and REAL LOWS without any conclusive explanation. The best advice I can give you it to take the prescribed medicine faithfully, even if you are feeling fine...but also, watch your diet and take care of yourself. Exercise is a great outlet.

There is also a great organization called www.twloha.com that you should check out.

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