Understanding High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder and Seeking Treatment
Bipolar disorder can cause dramatic mood shifts that fluctuate from crippling depression to manic episodes. Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that affects not only moods but energy levels and the ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
If you have high-functioning bipolar disorder, on the surface you appear to be perfectly fine. No one around you would guess that you have a brain disorder that affects many aspects of your life. You can go through the motions that make you appear to be leading a “normal” life. You may get up and go to work every day, juggle the various demands of home and career, raise children and interact with your peers.
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But below the surface, you may feel like a time bomb about to explode. The fact that you appear completely functional doesn’t mean there isn’t an inner struggle going on. Ignoring symptoms of bipolar disorder or pretending you are not having them can lead to more severe symptoms in the future.
The Challenge of High-functioning Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is not an uncommon illness. Over 5 million Americans are affected with bipolar disorder. There is stigma attached to mental illness, and a lot of people you encounter may make assumptions about those who have mental illness and struggle with brain disorders, such as bipolar disorder. Expectations are usually that if you have a mental illness you will not lead a successful or functional life.
This increases the challenges for you if you have high-functioning bipolar disorder. You know you appear to have it all together. You fear there is a good chance that those around you are likely to pass judgment if they really knew your inner struggles.
How Being High-functioning Bipolar Can be a Problem
Going through the motions of being completely in control when, underneath, you are not in control can be extremely draining. If you are putting all your energy into projecting the appearance of having your act completely together during the day, by evening there isn’t much left for you to draw from, and you may start to feel exhausted or depressed.
Creating an illusion of being perfectly fine may fool everyone, including you. You may start to believe that you don’t need treatment or that whatever you are doing is clearly working, even though you are actually ignoring your symptoms or just pretending you don’t have them.
If you have high-functioning bipolar disorder, you may rush from one activity to another to avoid actually experiencing your feelings, which could be a sign that you are in a manic episode and not really being functional at all. This can ultimately lead to more mood swings and more changes in the brain.
Acknowledging That You Need Help
It is possible that you really are leading a functional life. It is also possible that you are simply trying to pretend you are not experiencing symptoms when you are actually using a tremendous amount of energy trying to push them away. There is even the possibility that if you believe you are fine, you are actually experiencing mania or hypomania.
Treatment of bipolar disorder includes both medication and talk therapy. Therapy provides a safe and healthy place to discuss your experiences, struggles and successes on a regular basis.
Entering a treatment program may offer you the help you need to really get your bipolar symptoms under control. Through an individualized treatment plan at an outpatient treatment facility you will learn better coping skills, so you can better lead a more functional and comfortable life, rather than just pretending that all is well if it really isn’t.
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Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.