Whether you’re trying to connect clinical bipolar symptoms with everyday life or understand if you may be dealing with bipolar mood patterns, it’s helpful to look beyond diagnostic labels. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain and explore how it affects a person’s everyday life.
How Bipolar Disorder Affects Everyday Life
While you can begin to understand how bipolar disorder works by reviewing a list of symptoms, you have to remember that nobody’s life is ever as simple as that. Behind every bipolar diagnosis is an individual striving to achieve a state of well-being, just like everyone else. That’s why we at PCH find it helpful to view bipolar behavior as more than a diagnosis and as a real mood pattern that affects everyday life.
In this post, we’ll look at how bipolar affects a person’s everyday life in these eight key areas:
- Mood Regulation
- Drug and Alcohol Use
- Physical Activity
Since it’s fundamentally a mood issue, the most significant impact bipolar disorder has on everyday life is in relation to an individual’s emotional regulation abilities. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder most commonly swing between two extreme emotional states: manic episodes and depressive episodes. Depending on the type of bipolar disorder they’re diagnosed with, these episodes can last anywhere from weeks to months then suddenly change.
Manic episodes are characterized by feelings of euphoria, high energy, talkativeness, and poor decision-making abilities. Depressive episodes, on the other hand, are defined by feelings of sadness or hopelessness, disinterest in life activities, a lack of energy, and the inability to concentrate.
Because it’s almost impossible to predict the frequency and intensity of episodes, living with bipolar means that an individual could go to bed in a manic state and wake up to the onset of a depressive episode with little to no control over their mood, even when they’re aware of what’s happening.
Bipolar disorder almost always affects the people in an individual’s life as much as the individual dealing with it. For people living with someone diagnosed as bipolar, it can be impossible to predict their mood patterns and know where they stand with the individual. From friendships to romantic relationships, individuals with bipolar can struggle to form and sustain long-term relationships as their moods fluctuate. That’s why it’s essential to be open about mood patterns and reach out for support as needed.
When living with bipolar disorder, individuals often find themselves either extremely productive and focused at work or largely disinterested. This tendency can make it challenging to maintain a full-time job or focus on a career path where one must always be at their best. For a period of weeks or months, an individual may feel like they’re on top of the world at work and the following week struggle to get out of bed.
Similar to work, individuals with bipolar disorder may take up a sudden interest in particular hobbies or activities during a manic episode and then just as quickly lose all interest with the onset of a depressive episode. Hobbies can provide a healthy outlet for someone to channel their manic energy. However, during a depressive episode, they can become a source of resentment and a reminder of the zest one has for life during a manic episode, feeding into the negative thought patterns brought on by a depressive episode.
Sleep patterns are one of the most defining physical symptoms of bipolar. During a manic episode, individuals with bipolar can generally get by on less sleep or may even feel like they don’t need to sleep at all. During a depressive episode, they may struggle with insomnia or hypersomnia, where they always feel groggy due to a lack of sleep or oversleeping.
Fluctuations in mood patterns often influence changes in eating habits. During a manic episode, individuals may feel like they can get by with less food than usual, while a depressive episode may cause them to obsess over food. While the relationship isn’t yet fully understood, studies have shown a connection between bipolar disorder and eating disorders. In fact, “One in three people with bipolar disorder also meet criteria for binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, or variants of these disorders.”
Drug and Alcohol Use
Bipolar disorder is a mood issue, while drugs and alcohol are mood-altering substances. When individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder use drugs or alcohol, these substances often influence their mood more than other people. At the same time, drugs and alcohol have been known to trigger manic or depressive episodes in certain individuals. If someone takes medication as part of their bipolar treatment plan, adding drugs and alcohol to the mix can cause adverse side effects.
Ultimately, it’s best for individuals with bipolar disorder to avoid these substances as much as possible. However, many individuals struggle with this as they try to cope with or self-regulate their mood patterns with drugs or alcohol.
During a manic episode, physical activity like exercise or yoga can provide an ideal outlet for excess energy. It can also offer an excellent motivational tool for individuals during a depressive episode, as it helps to release endorphins that aid in mood regulation.
We Care About What Happened to You—Not What’s Wrong With You
Do you suspect that bipolar tendencies may be affecting your quality of life or the life of someone you care about in any of the above areas? PCH is here to help. Reach out to our specialists today for a complimentary consultation, and we’ll help you understand your options for achieving well-being in all areas of your life.