When It's Not The Blues



(BlackDoctor.org) — Despite the stereotypes, mood disorders — especially bipolar disorder— are hard to recognize.  Particularly in the black community where it is considered a sign of weakness to seek professional help for mental health, moodiness and anxiety may be written off as stress and a part of life. But mental health problems need just as much medical attention as physical health problems.

While there’s usually no doubt that you may have a flu or another physical condition, recognizing bipolar disorder takes a little more work.  Here are some signs to look for to know when those ups and downs are more than just circumstance.

Extreme Happiness

Bipolar disorder is characterized by up-and-down episodes of extreme happiness and depression. Extreme happiness, or mania, is usually characterized by a break from reality, but sometimes it’s a high-energy state that still has some basis in reality. While it lasts, the feeling of being up is euphoric and you may feel full of energy and creativity.


Depression causes lack of appetite, decrease in energy, loss of sleep and inability to focus.  A person on the downward end of bipolar disorder is going to seem just like someone who has regular depression.

Unfortunately, typical antidepressants alone don’t work well for people who suffer from bipolar disorder. In fact, typical antidepressants can even make bipolar disorder worse.

Inability To Complete Tasks

Having a to-do list full of half-done tasks and projects is very symptomatic of bipolar disorder. People who can harness their energy when they are in a manic phase can be really productive.  They make grand plans for things that others may even consider unrealistic.  Soon, however, they are distracted by the next project and move on quickly, never finishing anything.


Some people with bipolar suffer from  a state of mixed mania.  In this state, they experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time and as a result are extremely irritable.  Everyone has their bad days, so this symptom of bipolar disorder is much harder to recognize.  When the irritablitility interferes with relationships and the person isn’t even sure why they’re irritable, that’s a red flag.

Rapid Speech

We all know someone who just loves to talk and fast at that.  But speech that’s just a little too fast, called pressured speech, is one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Pressured speech occurs when someone is really not in a two-way conversation, but rather speaks at you and does a lot of interrupting and talking over you. Often times, they also jump around to different topics.

Workplace Problems

People with bipolar disorder often have difficulty at work because many of their symptoms can interfere with their ability to show up for work, complete the job at hand, and interact productively with coworkers and managers. Other than the obvious problems that result from irritability and trouble sleeping; inflated ego during a manic phase and depression at other times causes many interpersonal conflicts.

Alcohol Or Alcohol Abuse

Approximately 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder also have a substance abuse problem, usually alcohol. Many will drink when they are in a manic phase almost to slow down the exessive energy and  in turn use alcohol to improve their mood when they are depressed.

Erratic Behavior

When they are in a manic phase, people with bipolar disorder can have inflated self-esteem. Typically this results in spending sprees or extreme sexual behavior.  One sign the behavior is due to bipolar disorder is that the behavior is not consistent with what a person would normally do. The consequences are an afterthought.

Racing Mind

People with bipolar disorder often feel like their mind is racing and they can’t control or slow down their thoughts when they are in a manic phase.  People with bipolar disorder may not admit their thoughts are out of control, but speech patterns typically give it away. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor.


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