Understanding Bipolar Disorder: A Brief Overview
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health disorder that causes intense mood shifts, energy levels, and unique thinking patterns which causes challenges in several areas of a person’s life. Individuals will often have difficulty processing information, effectively communicating with others, and making rational decisions. Comprehending bipolar disorder symptoms and bipolar disorder thinking patterns can help others better understand and empathize with those who struggle with the disease. With the right mental health treatment, including a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes, individuals coping with bipolar disorder can go on to live seemingly normal lives.
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes uncontrollable mood swings and shifts in energy, activity levels, and concentration. Living with bipolar disorder is challenging as it can affect all aspects of a person’s life including interpersonal relationships, school or work performance, and the ability to carry out normal day-to-day tasks. Mood shifts cycle between manic/hypomanic (abnormally high or irritable mood) or depressive (sad mood). Bipolar disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe.
There are three types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I disorder: severe or prolonged manic episodes with mixed features of depression (having depressive and manic symptoms simultaneously).
- Bipolar II disorder: depressive episodes with hypomanic episodes (less severe manic episodes).
- Cyclothymic disorder: recurring hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are not intense enough or long enough to be considered hypomanic or depressive episodes.
Bipolar disorder is often diagnosed during the late teen years but can appear in children. Although bipolar symptoms can change over time, it requires lifelong bipolar disorder treatment. Every person will experience bipolar disorder symptoms differently, which include:
Manic episode symptoms include:
- Being highly elated or extremely irritable.
- Feeling jumpy or wired, more active than usual.
- Racing thoughts
- Talking fast and changing train of thought quickly.
- Feeling able to do many things at the same time without fatigue.
- Having an excessive appetite for drinking, food, sex, or other pleasurable activities.
- Feeling unusually important, talented, or powerful.
- Decreased need for sleep.
Depressive episode symptoms include:
- Trouble falling asleep, waking up too early, or excessive sleep.
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, or very down.
- Fatigue or slowed-down energy.
- Talking very slowly, inability to find anything to say, or forgetting a lot.
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions.
- Unable to do simple, everyday tasks.
- Lack of interest in almost all activities.
- Feeling hopeless or worthless.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
One of the hardest parts about coping with bipolar disorder is bipolar thinking patterns. Shifting between manic and depressive episodes, which often do not have any pattern to them, causes changing, abnormal thinking patterns. During manic episodes, a person may have racing thoughts and delusional thinking, while depressive episodes lead to negative self-talk and even suicidal ideation.
Inside the Mind: How a Person with Bipolar Thinks
There are many misconceptions about people coping with bipolar disorder. They can be seen as unstable, unpredictable, unreliable, and unable to manage their moods. Understanding how someone with bipolar disorder symptoms thinks and feels can help with more patience and compassion. Common bipolar thinking patterns include:
- Racing thoughts: This is when one’s thoughts jump from one to another very quickly. They may change so quickly that a person feels out of control. It can include making links and seeing meaning in things that are not there or that others do not see.
- Rumination: Thinking and dwelling on upsetting and difficult things, causing distress and contributing to anxiety or depression.
- Negative or suicidal thoughts: Bipolar disorder can cause negative self-talk, thoughts of death, and suicidal ideation, even during manic episodes.
- Black and white thinking: Seeing things in absolutes, either as one or extreme or another. This type of thinking prevents individuals with bipolar disorder from recognizing or accepting someone or something intricately, not allowing for any gray areas in their thinking.
- Grandiosity: A common sign of bipolar disorder, grandiosity is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, superiority, and grandeur. Grandiosity usually occurs during manic episodes. They may feel they have special powers, spend excessive amounts of money, or make grandiose plans or unrealistic goals.
The Impact of Bipolar Disorder on Perception and Interpretation
Bipolar disorder can alter how a person sees and interprets the world around them. It can cause misbeliefs ranging in severity, from false beliefs about themselves such as “I am worthless” or “I don’t deserve love” to delusions similar to psychosis including hallucinations. Individuals can sometimes make connections between things that are not there or irrational thoughts like someone’s motives are worse than they are. They may also become paranoid or believe others are out to get them.
This type of thinking can negatively impact a person’s daily life, relationship with others, mood stability, and self-esteem. Thoughts of grandeur can make people with bipolar disorder feel indestructible, which can have devastating consequences, such as gambling away their life savings or causing bodily harm.
Understanding Rapid Thinking in Bipolar Disorder
One of the most common bipolar disorder thinking patterns is rapid thinking, usually during manic episodes. The brain jumps from one thing to another which can cause individuals to become easily distracted. It is more than just thinking fast. Individuals will experience a rapid succession of thoughts that cannot be quieted or controlled.
Racing thoughts can affect a person’s daily life and severely interfere with the ability to sleep. It can lead to individuals making snap judgments, jumping to conclusions, and making the wrong decisions. This type of thinking can also cause people to quickly move into worst-case scenarios, which can stop them from taking advantage of opportunities or participating in what may have been a great experience.
Manic episodes can lead to overexcitability and racing thoughts, leading to poor choices such as gambling large amounts of money, making life-altering decisions, or engaging in unsafe sex practices. Racing thoughts don’t allow time to think things through thoroughly. It can also be so overwhelming that it leads to emotional distress and even thoughts of suicide.
Bipolar Disorder Causes: A Look at the Why
Like other mental health disorders, the bipolar disorder causes are not exactly known. Researchers believe a combination of factors such as genetics, brain structure and functioning, stress, and environmental factors contribute to a person’s chances of developing the disorder. Here is a closer look at these factors:
- Genetics: People with a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop it themselves. However, just because someone has a family history of the disorder, it is not certain they will develop it. Usually, there needs to be another trigger such as stress or trauma.
- Stress: Chronic stress or a stressful event such as a death in the family, an illness, divorce, or financial problems can trigger a manic or depressive episode. A person’s ability to handle stress may play a role in the development of the illness.
- Brain structure and function: While brain scans cannot diagnose bipolar disorder, researchers have identified subtle differences in the average size or activation of certain brain areas in people with bipolar disorder.
Coping With Bipolar Thinking Patterns
Bipolar thinking patterns will differ from person to person and can range from mild to severe. When symptoms are mild, it is possible to use self-care, mindfulness, cognitive behavioral techniques, and other coping mechanisms to manage bipolar symptoms. However, more severe cases should seek out help from a mental health professional who can prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy sessions.
Some ways to cope with bipolar thinking patterns include:
- Deep breathing exercises can help induce calming and relaxing feelings to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Mindfulness: Racing thoughts are often centered around worries about the future. Mindfulness practices such as meditation can place focus on the present moment and calm worrying or racing thoughts.
- Distractions: When experiencing racing thoughts, distractions and focusing on something else can help quiet them. This can include cooking, listening to music, creating art, exercising, socializing with friends, or watching a movie.
- Grounding exercises: redirecting your thoughts through grounding exercises can help stop racing thoughts and bring you back to the present. One way is through the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, where you notice five things around you, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste in your mouth.
Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder
While bipolar disorder is a lifelong disorder, bipolar disorder treatment can help individuals successfully manage their symptoms. Effective bipolar disorder treatment is usually centered around medication, psychotherapy, or talk therapy. Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, daily exercise, and self-care techniques can also help people cope with bipolar disorder. Several types of medications are available, and some people may need to try several different types with the help of their healthcare provider to find which medication works best. Bipolar disorder is usually treated using antidepressants along with mood stabilizers.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can be highly effective in helping people manage emotions and bipolar thinking patterns. This type of therapy can also provide support, education, and guidance. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of psychotherapy used to treat bipolar disorder. CBT can help individuals challenge racing thoughts, circular thinking, and delusions, replacing them with more positive ones.
Bipolar disorder talk therapy can be done in person or through virtual therapy. Mindfuli offers personalized virtual therapy for bipolar disorder which can be accessed from anywhere and during hours when many therapists do not have office hours, such as in the evenings. Through a short online questionnaire, Mindfuli will expertly match you with licensed therapists and/or peer support counselors users can choose from. Individuals can begin effective bipolar disorder therapy in as little as 48 hours.
Support for Individuals with Bipolar Disorder
With an estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experiencing bipolar disorder, plenty of resources are available to support those struggling with the disorder. One of the best places to find resources is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Their website offers bipolar disorder support groups, personal stories of those who struggle with the disorder, and a helpline which is available by calling 1-800-950-6264. It is important to seek professional help through counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists who can provide individualized treatment plans, including medications, to help anyone manage their bipolar disorder symptoms, no matter how severe.
FAQs About the Impact of Bipolar Disorder on Thought Patterns
What are some common thinking patterns associated with bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is usually associated with extreme changes in mood, from manic to depressive. During these episodes, individuals can also experience intense shifts in their thinking patterns. The most common bipolar thinking patterns include rapid thinking, rumination, black-and-white thinking, and suicidal thoughts.
How does bipolar disorder affect a person’s perception of reality?
Bipolar disorder can impact how a person interprets the world around them and how they perceive themselves. Individuals can make connections between things that are not there or negative perceptions of themselves. These types of thinking patterns can be severely distressing or lead to irrational decision-making.
Are there ways to manage or alter bipolar thinking patterns?
There are several ways to manage or alter bipolar thinking patterns, such as through mindfulness and cognitive behavioral techniques. Some of these coping mechanisms can be learned through research or education, but talk therapy is the best way to learn and adapt these tools. Therapists and counselors can provide individuals with various coping skills, tools, and self-care techniques to manage their bipolar disorder symptoms successfully.
How does bipolar disorder affect decision-making?
Bipolar disorder thinking patterns can involve racing thoughts, delusions, and grandiosity, affecting decision-making skills. Individuals may believe they see links between things that are not there, have a high sense of self, make grand plans, feel they have special powers, and cause suicidal thoughts which can lead to making problematic decisions, such as spending large amounts of money or engaging in unsafe sex.
What resources are available for people trying to understand and cope with bipolar thinking patterns?
While there are plenty of online resources for understanding and learning how to cope with bipolar thinking patterns, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health professionals can offer the best resources for managing symptoms. They can provide individualized treatment plans, coping skills, and medications to treat bipolar disorder symptoms effectively. If you are struggling with bipolar thinking patterns, Mindfuli can connect you with online therapists and counselors who fit your needs. Please call us at 888-703-3004 to begin your wellness journey.