am I bipolar?

by samantha
(glasgow, scotland)

I am 16 and I have always talked fast ever since i was about 12. I used to think I was just like everyone else my age but after 4 years I still talk way too fast and I cant stop it. It annoys people when I talk to them because they struggle to understand me but I don't realise I am talking fast and I think I am talking at a normal pace and when I try to slow down I feel like i am talking like a robot or at snail pace. Also my dad moaned at me about it today and i started crying and could stop for about 5-10 minutes. I knew it was stupid to cry about something so small but I couldn't help it. Also I have been feeling rather down lately and have just wanted to lie in bed doing nothing.

I used to always try hard in school and I wanted to achieve good grades so I could go to uni, yet now I dont want to go to uni and I havent even studied for my exams which start this week. I have been skipping school and just stayed at home and lay about all day doing nothing because I feel like my life is pointless. At other times though I feel great and like my life couldn't be any better. I get hyper easily and when I am around family and friends they describe me as loud despite the fact that I spend alot of time on my own in my room and dont go out as much as people my age usually do. Also when I go to parties with my family or friends I tend to dress provotically and I am always dancing. I want to be centre of attention at these parties and feel as if I am the best looking or most important person there and that everybody loves me. I feel bad when I think about me acting this way but I cant help it when it happens.

Also, I have been feeling tired recently but yet when I go to bed I find it hard to sleep and I spend hours lying awake before finally getting to sleep for a few hours before waking up feeling refreshed and wide awake yet by mid afternoon i feel scattered again and the whole cycle repeats and I am unable to get to sleep again that night. Also there are times when my thoughts are jumpy and disjointed and people find it difficult to follow my train of thought yet it makes perfect sense to me. I have looked at bipolar symptoms and I think I might have that but I am not sure so I was just looking for advice on whether anyone thinks I might be bipolar and if so what I should do to seek help? should I go to my gp ? would they be able to help me?

Ben's Answer:

Hi Samantha -

If it were only a habit of talking too fast I wouldn't think bipolar, but put together with some of the other symptoms you've described, I think there is a chance that a bipolar diagnosis would fit. I cannot diagnose you based on this information, but some things really stand out about your description. The mood changes from laying around doing nothing and isolating, alternating with being the life of the party and feeling like you are the most important person there - in addition to poor sleep and high energy - are all common symptoms.

The problem with seeing a GP is that many doctors misdiagnose bipolar disorder - or even treat it improperly when they do get the diagnosis right. One of the most risky things you could take would be an antidepressant, as this can worsen your mood swings and spike your manic episodes terribly - creating a far worse condition. You might also get misdiagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and be given a stimulant like Ritalin. This can also induce mania and cause worse problems for someone with bipolar disorder.

I personally believe in trying the most natural treatments first - and very few doctors do that, so you may not find much support in this. The complicated thing is that there is not only one reason for developing bipolar symptoms. For one person it can be triggered by food allergies, for another it can begin with an emotional trauma, and for another it can be brought on after taking an antidepressant medication. In any case it often becomes a chronic condition. Taking care of yourself on all levels - physical (diet, exercise, sleep), emotional (unresolved traumas, relationship issues, past abuse, self-esteem issues, etc), energetic, and spiritual. Meditation and yoga can be extremely helpful for many people. EFT can be a great self-help tool as well, and can help with sleep too.

You might want to consider a licensed alternative health practitioner like an acupuncturist, naturopath or doctor of ayurvedic medicine. Psychotherapy would also be a very good idea, but understand that not all psychotherapists are well acquainted with bipolar disorder.

When you talk too fast, try pausing and taking a long deep breath. Learning to slow down in speech, movement and thought can help balance things. It takes a lot of practice and self-awareness but you can do it. Also, learn to recognize your triggers. What triggers depression for you, and what induces an elevated/manic mood? Everyone has triggers, even if they don't consciously notice them. Learning this can help to keep things in balance before you get to far out in either direction. With the right amount of control, your elevated moods could become more of an asset than a handicap. Keep learning and don't give up.

Best Wishes,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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