Is What I Am Experiencing from Bipolar Disorder or a Separate Issue? How to Know
By Julie A. Fast, bpHope
December 7, 2017

Bipolar disorder symptoms are separate from personality and life problems. Learn to recognize the difference in order to get the treatment you need.

Wondering if what you are experiencing is due to bipolar disorder or if it is something that needs to be treated separately? Here is a checklist to help you decide:

1. Bipolar disorder is always episodic: I canít stress this enough. We are stable when we are not in a mood swing. This is why so many people are shocked to get a bipolar diagnosis. The illness can come upon a person suddenly and very intensely without a lot of warning.

If your symptoms come and go and are attached to depression or mania, it is probably bipolar disorder. For example, I am very hyper-sensitive to the criticism and behaviors of others when Iím depressed. I am NOT like this when I am stable. It is episodic. This means that my sensitivity is bipolar-oriented and can be managed by managing bipolar disorder.

Are your symptoms episodic? Do they come and go depending on your mood? Then, it is probably bipolar disorder.

2. Bipolar disorder is a triggered illness: If your symptoms show up as a reaction to something from outside of yourself, such as a promotion at work, travel, getting engaged, lack of sunlight or arguing with a friend, then there is a chance itís bipolar. If you normally are FINE and then you find yourself in a whirlwind of symptoms, look for triggers.

3. Bipolar disorder is not about your personality. Although I do believe we have a specific personality, such as being highly inquisitive and being quick to rush into change, bipolar itself has nothing to do with who you are as a person. So, if your behaviors are out of character, it is likely bipolar disorder.

If others say, ďThat is not like you!Ē or if you find yourself acting in a way that goes against what you believe, it is probably bipolar disorder.

What does it look like when itís NOT bipolar disorder?

4. When the behavior is consistent and independent from the mood: For example, think of a person who is selfish all of the time. Bipolar will never be Ďall of the time.í So, if youíre trying to figure out if a behavior is bipolar or personality, look for consistency.

Have you always been a certain way since childhood, such as not liking the feel of clothing on the back of your neck or slurping sounds? Is this constant no matter how you feel? Then itís not bipolar.

5. Bipolar disorder symptoms respond to medications: We may HATE the side effects, but the reality is that lithium for example really works to stabilize our moods. I have been crying a lot for no reason lately. I took my lithium, and I am not crying now. That is bipolar. Situations that are about life and personality will NOT respond to lithium or any medication. If a person has relationship problems that are continual even when medicated, then itís rarely about bipolar.

This is all good news!

Why? It means that figuring out what is bipolar and what is not will help you better manage the illness. Figuring out what is NOT bipolar can lead you to getting help that will actually work.

I have bipolar, but I also have a psychotic disorder and a brain injury that lead to severe anxiety symptoms. I need specific treatment for each.