3 Bipolar Disorder Symptoms No One Wants to Talk About

I know how important it is to protect the reputation of bipolar disorder in the general public. We don’t want people thinking we are dangerous, scary people who can’t be trusted. But I do feel we need to own up to the fact that certain mood swings do cause the behaviors we want to sweep under the carpet.

The three bipolar disorder symptoms below represent the side of bipolar we all know is there, but we rarely want to let the public know exists.

High and Low Sex Drives in Bipolar Disorder

Ahh, sex. You either want it or you don’t. For a person without bipolar disorder, sex typically happens in a semi-regular pattern for healthy couples. In people with bipolar disorder, however, the way we view sex can go from one extreme to the other.

There are some days where my sex drive is through the roof (always on manic days), and I just can’t. get. enough. In others, especially in people who aren’t in a healthy relationship, having sex with anyone can become an objective. This is where a lot of people with bipolar disorder can get in trouble. There’s always the chance for pregnancies and STD’s when risking your sex life to get some pleasure.

Then, just as quickly as the mood goes up, it goes down. During depressive episodes, sex can seem like a far distant object that I just don’t want to partake in. It seems like a daunting task where I honestly just want to lay there and get it over with. Other days during depressive episodes, my self-confidence bottoms out and sex is the very last thing on my mind, and I’ll go two or three weeks without it.

The good news – I know this bipolar disorder symptom is fleeting. Just as quickly as the desire comes in, it will disappear. There is a genuine possibility to have a healthy sexual relationship with your partner even with the low and high sex drives.

Psychosis in Bipolar Disorder

I have bipolar 1 disorder. My bipolar disorder symptoms have mostly been hallucinations and paranoid delusions. For example, with tactile hallucinations I once thought my son was right beside me because I knew I could feel him touching my arm. When in reality, he wasn’t even in the house.

As far as paranoia goes, I often believe there are cameras everywhere watching my every move. I have even believed there are cameras in the women’s bathroom at my work, or even a hole in the wall for others to look through.

Psychosis is one of those things that only goes away with medication. Therapy alone will not help. If you have bipolar 1, there is a 70 percent chance of full on psychosis when you are in a full-blown manic episode. This psychosis can be very bizarre and mimic schizophrenia. The difference? People with bipolar disorder only have psychosis during a manic or depressed mood swing. There is no psychosis outside of depression or mania. If a person has psychosis in between episodes, it could be schizoaffective disorder.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new Bipolar 1 Support group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Join the Bipolar 1 Support group to connect with others who understand what it's really like to live with hypomania, rapid-cycling, depression and more. Click to join.

Cognitive Impairment in Bipolar Disorder

Many people find this scary. We already have bipolar disorder, does this mean we have memory problems as well? Maybe. Cognitive impairment from memory lapses, forgetting appointments, being unable to remember information and experiencing brain fog during certain episodes is a common bipolar disorder symptom. If you have bipolar disorder, you’ve probably felt the sluggish brain that comes with depression. If you have mania, you have probably tripped over your words, said things you don’t mean and had trouble thinking in order.

My cognitive symptoms visit me daily. I’m not able to remember dates and numbers and need help with calendars and appointments. It’s something I find distressing, but it’s easy to manage.

Mine tend to linger all of the time, but get worse with mood swings. A perfect example of this — I can’t remember pretty much the first year of my son’s life, but I can remember all of the lyrics to my favorite Backstreet Boys song from when I was 14. What’s up with that?

I have to live with these symptoms and even though a few things slip through, I do control the majority of my memory problems with a good old fashioned wall calendar and a planner. It keeps me accountable when I look at it daily.

Here’s the good news—yes, there is good news!

Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness and symptoms can be managed. We have all of our bipolar disorder symptoms while in a mood swing. This means we are somewhat stable when we are not in a mood swing. The bipolar disorder symptoms I list above usually go away when the illness is successfully managed. It can take regular monitoring for those of us who have daily symptoms. Others who have long breaks between mood swings may even forget the bipolar disorder symptoms even existed. This is why we must have a management plan that can recognize the high and low sex drives, psychosis and cognitive impairment as soon as it begins.

That’s why I always recommend seeing a therapist along with your regular psychiatrist. Therapists are trained individuals who can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder that medicine may not cover.

I know we want to protect our reputations around this illness. We don’t want to be seen as different. But I ask that within our community, we get brutally honest about what really happens to those of us with the illness. It’s the only way we can help others who are experiencing the same thing and destigmatize bipolar disorder at the same time.

I want us to be open about our bipolar disorder symptoms. This is the only way we can get help.

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