Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition and many people think that it causes severe mood swings. In a sense this is true. But did you know that there is actually much more to bipolar than just mood swings? In fact, you can’t be diagnosed with bipolar just because you have mood swings, no matter how many or how severe they may be. In this article, I outline some key bipolar symptoms in men.
A Pattern of Thoughts and Behaviors
Bipolar disorder involves a pattern of thoughts and behaviors which, when seen together, signal a problem. As you probably guessed, mood swings are typically a part of that pattern and are checked for when someone is evaluated for bipolar. But there are many other symptoms of bipolar, and these can be even more problematic than the mood swings.
One of the main things that men (or their significant others, friends, or supervisors) complain about is the severe difficulty they have focusing. People who are experiencing a manic episode typically have a hard time focusing for more than a moment. They feel as if their thoughts are racing through their head at a million miles an hour. Someone who was experiencing this once told me that they were thinking so fast that as soon as they tried to focus on any one specific thought, it was already gone and ten more had come and gone in its place. Talk about exhausting! Similarly, since their thoughts are in overdrive, people in a manic state also tend to be more talkative than usual or feel the need to talk much more often. Bipolar men who are introverted may become extroverted, while men who are naturally extroverted may just annoy everyone around them by talking nonstop.
Needing Less Sleep
Another interesting thing about bipolar disorder that is deceptively attractive to some men is the phenomenon of not needing as much sleep as they normally need when they are in a manic or hypomanic state. Many individuals who are either manic or hypomanic stay up for 20 to 22 hours per day for days on end because they feel so energetic that they don’t feel the need to sleep. Many career-minded men, or men who just have too much on their plate, might initially wish that they had this “problem.” But they should know that it comes at a cost. The energy boost that allows men to stay up most of the night, or all night for days on end, generally comes hand-in-hand with a significant reduction in their ability to make good judgments. Hence, the same men who are able to stay up all night are also prone to do things that they shouldn’t be doing (and wouldn’t be doing if they had better judgment), such as looking at porn, having affairs, doing drugs, spending money they can’t afford, etc. In fact, these kinds of poor decisions are so common with bipolar that their presence is one of the criteria used to determine whether or not someone has bipolar disorder. Therefore, the fact that this temporary impairment in judgment generally comes as a package deal with the energy to stay up all night should cause that energy boost to lose some of its luster.
What Goes Up Must Come Down
In addition, as our friend Sir Isaac Newton reminds us, what goes up must come down. The counterpart to the manic or hypomanic episodes of bipolar is depression – and the depression tends to occur more often than the bipolar “highs.” The painful and debilitating effects of depression are more easily recognizable than the mania or hypomania. These include feeling chronically sad or empty, isolating yourself from your wife and kids, and even considering ending your life. Men are more likely to commit suicide than women and depression is one of their main reasons for considering this.
Christian Counseling for Bipolar Disorder
As a Christian counselor, I have seen many people with bipolar disorder and have learned to recognize bipolar symptoms in men. Bipolar disorder is a serious illness and one that you should entrust to an expert. If you are concerned that you or someone you know is bipolar, or has experienced symptoms like those described here, I encourage you to contact me about getting an evaluation and discussing treatment options.
“Busy,” courtesy of William Iven, unsplash.com, Public Domain License; “Friday Morning,” courtesy of torbakhopper, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)
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