Get Work Done When You’re Depressed

Is Depression Affecting Your Work? Here’s Why You’re Not Alone

It’s difficult to get things done when you’re depressed. Julie A. Fast shares some personal advice on working through bipolar depression to get things done.

Originally published in BP Magazine.

There’s no question it’s difficult to get things done when you’re depressed. I’ve certainly had a hard time with this for most of my life. I had plenty of ideas for my books and other writings and I knew I had the talent. But when it came to finding the energy to get started and follow through to the end, I just couldn’t seem to accomplish what I wanted to.

The process was overwhelming and I stopped believing in myself. Then one day, I realized that all people with depression have trouble getting things done. It’s a symptom of the illness, not a personal flaw. From that point forward, I made a decision to do everything possible to get things done as best I could. No longer would I look back on my life and feel ashamed for all the time I had spent worrying about my lack of accomplishment, instead of doing something about it.

Take control of your depression

I became very ill about 10 years ago and spent a lot of time in bed. I couldn’t focus and could barely take care of the chores around my apartment. I cried all the time and felt like I would be a “failure” forever. It took me a few years of living this way before I realized that I had far more control than I realized over the depression ruining my life. I knew I had to make some big changes, if I didn’t want to live like a walking zombie.

So I decided to take control of my life, rather than let depression dictate what I could and could not do. Instead, I said to myself, “Depression may not want me to get on with my day, but I do.” And I was finally able to get out of bed—I did have control over my body.

It often felt as if I was walking in mud the minute I got up (and it still does today). However, I made a decision and stuck to it. When I felt too depressed to work on a project, I reminded myself, “I have control here. I make my decisions.” And this helped me change the way depression affected my life. My point is that even in the darkest depression when you feel immobile, you are not immobile. You can still move your body and you can make your own decisions.

The work-time: worry-time ratio

As I looked more deeply into the reasons why I wasn’t able to get things done, I realized that the time I spent worrying about not doing something took far more time than the actual task. I still struggle with this dichotomy today. Just last week, for instance, I was being really hard on myself for not answering all my email. I finally made myself sit down and take care of the problem. It took 45 minutes! I literally worried for a week over something that, in fact, took less than an hour.

This happens to me with household work as well. Did you know it takes about three minutes to unload a dishwasher and maybe a half hour to clean the whole kitchen? Worrying really does blow a job completely out of proportion. Just reminding myself that I’d rather get a small job done—instead of worrying about it—makes all the difference.

Waiting until you want to do something

Many people equate depression with the inability to work. In reality, it’s often the inability to feel like working that is the problem. Waiting until I “got” the feeling of wanting to do something before I even got started was one of my biggest mistakes. I’ve always thought that depression made it impossible for me to get things done—that my lack of desire to finish projects was a personal failing. I really believed this when it came to writing and other creative endeavors. It’s so sad to think of all the years of creativity I lost because of these thoughts.

These days, I know that I don’t have to feel like working in order to get started or to finish a project. The desire to keep working may not be very strong, but it does show up eventually. I say to myself, “Julie, the longer you wait to want to do this, the more chances it will never get done. Do it now. There are no other options.”

Be kind to yourself

I recently had stomach surgery. Everyone was very concerned and often told me not to do so much. My friends and family came over and helped with cleaning and drove me around town. They said, “You have to take care of yourself, Julie, so that you can heal properly!” I agreed and although I felt that I was being a wimp for needing so much help, it was easy for me to accept that my body had limitations I needed to respect. The real irony is that my depression is far worse than any stomach surgery—it’s more dangerous and takes a lot more management. This is the stigma of depression, when in reality it’s just as physically significant as trauma to the body. I took care of my physical body following the surgery. Likewise, I know that I need to be just as good to myself when depression is making it hard for me to function.

Let the real you take over

I try to use all these tools in my daily life. I still have the depression most of the time, but I accept that this is how it is for me. If I want to finish a project, I will have to rise above the depression and let the “real me” take over. My last book, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, took six months to write. On the days I could barely get started, I reminded myself that I didn’t have to like what I was doing, but I was going to do it anyway.

The time I spent worrying about not doing something took far more time than the actual task.

On some days, I cried while I was writing. On others, I was sure the depression was going to do me in, but I kept going. I really did say to myself, “Julie, the depression wants you to be sick today, but you’re a professional and you can finish this book.” And I met my deadlines. The most interesting thing is that when I look at the book now, I honestly can’t tell what part was written when I was severely depressed, and what part was written when I felt stable. I definitely still have days when I sit around and get really down on myself. These days are really tough, but I have the goal to at least be more active by the evening—it usually works. I have taught myself that depression will always take away my ability to get things done, if I let it.

I’ve decided not to let it anymore.

*   *   *   *   *

Tips for getting things done:

  1. Work with a friend.
  2. Choose the best work space for you.
  3. Work on one project until it is finished.
  4. Remind yourself that depression is involved—you are not weak or lazy.
  5. Feel the depression and do it anyway.
  6. Don’t give up. Change takes time.

Julie’s book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track is available on Amazon.

 

Winter Blues? You’re Not Imagining Them

Winter Blues? You’re Not Imagining Them

When not enough light makes a difference.

By Julie A. Fast

Originally published in Bp Magazine.

Do you dread the winter? I know I do! I live in Portland, Oregon, where it can be dark and dreary all day long during winter. For a long time, people were considered a bit wacky if they insisted that the weather affected their moods. Then Norman Rosenthal, MD, in his 1993 book Winter Blues (revised and updated in 1998), explained the connection between depression and the darker days of winter. Following the publication of Winter Blues, the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) were taken more seriously. Today, approved treatments for SAD (medication, therapy, and light) are often warranted, although SAD is generally a time-limited condition.

Answer the following questions to see if you have the symptoms Dr. Rosenthal ascribes to SAD.

Do you—

  • Have less energy than usual?
  • Feel less productive or creative?
  • Need more sleep?
  • Feel down or depressed?
  • Have less control over your appetite?

Many people with bipolar disorder feel this way no matter what the weather is like and for most of us, the above symptoms are definitely worse during the darker winter months. The difference, however, between people with bipolar disorder and those with a formal diagnosis of SAD, is that our symptoms don’t simply go away when it gets lighter outside—they just change.

According to John Preston, MD, coauthor of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder and a psychopharmacology expert in the treatment of bipolar disorder, “Decreased bright light exposure can trigger brain changes. For people suffering with bipolar disorder, this can occur certainly in winter months, but also if they work at night (as does 20 percent of the U.S. workforce), or if they live in cities with significant cloud cover or air pollution. Decreased bright light exposure may ignite a depressive episode.

“Sometimes when spring comes, depressive symptoms begin to subside, or manias can result,” Dr. Preston continues. “However, for many individuals with bipolar disorder the decreased light initiated the depression, but the episode may certainly continue for many months beyond winter.”

So what causes SAD symptoms? As Dr. Preston explained in my last column (“Watching Out for Summer Mania,” bp Magazine, Summer 2005), the amount of bright light entering the eye plays a role in regulating mood and can cause mania. So it makes sense that less sunlight entering the eye may increase depression symptoms. Thus, it is important to keep sunlight steady year round. But how is this possible when it may be really dark in the winter where you live, and quite sunny in the summer? The good news is that it is possible to decrease SAD symptoms. It just takes having a plan before the days get really dark.

 

Are light boxes a solution?

Most people know that light boxes can be an effective treatment for SAD. The problem is that people with bipolar disorder have to be very careful with bright light therapy, especially if they have rapid cycling, or have a tendency toward mania. (Light therapy has not been extensively studied for bipolar disorder,although it has been well-studied for SAD itself.) Sometimes I think anything would be better than SAD symptoms. On the other hand, rapid cycling is no fun. So it’s really not worth making yourself manic in order to feel better.

 

Diet and exercise make a difference

Another solution is to watch your diet carefully and make sure you get exercise in the morning when the light is better. It is tempting to use junk food and caffeine to get out of the afternoon slump. And it makes sense that you have no desire to exercise when there is no sun. But as I have learned over the years of living with bipolar disorder, I never want to do anything when I’m depressed. Yet I’ve taught myself to go ahead and do it anyway.

Here is how I try to eat during the darker months despite a constant craving for coffee, chocolate chip cookies, and cola: Eat a protein-rich breakfast. This can include a protein smoothie with one scrambled egg on the side, or a salad with chicken, eggs, walnuts, and apples. Try not to eat any carbs in the morning. Take a multivitamin that is rich in B vitamins. Have a snack ready to eat as soon as you feel your energy decrease. This usually happens around 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., which is when the typical coffee and donut break occurs. Don’t give in! Instead, be ready with an apple, or celery with peanut butter or some nuts. You can even eat a cold sweet potato. Then have a good protein lunch—chicken salad or tuna with greens and something fun to eat, as long as it’s not too carb-heavy.

Because afternoon is usually the toughest time for experiencing SAD symptoms, you must choose your snack carefully. Opt for tuna salad, a hard-boiled egg, or a natural (not too much sugar) protein bar. Save your major carbs for dinner. This is a typical blood sugar stabilizing diet. While it’s not nearly as tasty as a candy bar or a donut, you will be amazed how it helps your mood, and your weight, if that’s an issue.

 

More positive steps to take

Diet is just the first step to combating SAD symptoms, however. It’s also important to know what you say, think, and do when your mood begins to darken. In this way, you can treat the depression before it becomes really serious. You will need to create a list of the things you might typically say or feel when it gets darker outdoors, including such expressions as “I can’t live through another winter like this,” “I have to get out of this city,” or “Where is the junk food?”

  • For myself, the hours between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m. are really tough when it comes to these low feelings. This means I need to do something concrete and positive during these times to counteract the SAD symptoms. Here are some suggestions:
  • Take a walk in the morning when it’s brighter outside. Get someone to go with you.
  • Don’t take a coffee or sugar break when you feel down. Instead, break for a walk and eat an apple.
  • Eat really spicy, low-carb foods for lunch. Doing so will increase endorphins.
  • Take a fun class, or meet friends during your tough hours.
  • Go to a bright gym after work. If you don’t work outside the home, make sure to stay busy throughout the day.
  • Think of what you love to do, then do just that to counteract SAD symptoms. This can be singing, meeting a friend at a cheerful cafe, or going to a light-hearted movie.
  • Create a bright living space and work space with full spectrum lights, bright colors, and plants.
  • Teach your family and friends exactly what to do when you “go down.”
  • Talk with your employer about SAD. Request an office with a window, if feasible.

Put all of these ideas on an index card and carry it with you. Put it on the wall above your desk or on your refrigerator. Read it every morning. Don’t assume you have it memorized. Depression has a way of making you forget what works and what doesn’t. I assure you the index card method is a solution that will work.

If you only do one thing to combat SAD, changing your diet– even if just in the afternoon– can really make a difference.

If you feel you are too depressed for the suggested solutions above, try to do just one. I know I’ve been too depressed to get out of bed. At the same time, I’ve also learned that simply getting out of bed is a solution. You can then decide what to do next. You do have the power to get better.

SAD symptoms are real and need to be taken seriously. If SAD symptoms are not addressed, the depression can become much worse and you may have to go to the hospital. Don’t wait until your SAD symptoms get worse. Take care of them before it gets really dark and dreary.

I use the ideas in Get it Done When You’re Depressed to help me through the seasonal affected disorder blues!

Julie 

Watch out for Summer Mania- Or if You’re Down Under- Winter Mania!

Watch Out for Summer Mania- Let’s plan ahead for mood swings triggered by the sun in our eyes and late, bright sky evenings!

Summer’s sunshine is a notorious trigger for mania. To prevent summertime mania, keep taking your medication—even when it feels like you don’t need to.

Preventing mania takes a lot of self-awareness, especially in summer when it’s so nice to feel good again. Have you ever noticed that your mood is better in the summer? This makes sense when you consider that mood swings often run in cycles, depending on the natural light where you live.

“For many people who have bipolar disorder, too much light exposure can provoke mania and too little can lead to depression,” says John Preston, MD, coauthor of our book and psychopharmacology expert in the treatment of bipolar disorder who teaches at Alliant International University, Sacramento Campus. “This is why hospitalizations for mania peak in the summer, and for depression [they peak] in the late fall.

“It’s certainly tempting to spend more time outside in the summer, so one must make a focused effort to keep bright light exposure at about the same amount of time per day, year round,” adds Dr. Preston. “What matters is the amount of bright light entering the eye, which has been shown to have a significant impact on brain chemistry…so sunglasses help.”

Even though it helps to read a reasonable explanation about why we often get manic in the summer, it’s still hard to take it seriously. After all, summer feels so good. However, this good feeling is often the result of mania and therefore has to be monitored carefully. Mania is so tricky—it can sneak up on you in just a few hours. Before you know it, you’re staying up all night for a week (at the expense Follow Julie Fast’s Blogof your job and relationships), working on a project you just know will change the world. Meanwhile, everyone around you is asking, “What the heck is wrong with you? Have you lost your mind?”

There are two types of mania, depending on whether you have bipolar I or bipolar II. The basic difference between the two diagnoses is that people with bipolar I experience full-blown mania, while those with bipolar II experience hypomania. If not detected early, full-blown mania gets out of hand very quickly and often requires hospitalization. Hypomanic mood swings, on the other hand, can go undetected for years, which is why people with bipolar II are often diagnosed much later in life than are those with bipolar I.

The number one sign of full-blown mania is when you sleep a lot less, but have plenty of energy. It’s especially important that you look for mania symptoms if you have a winter depression that suddenly lifts once there is more light outdoors. People with hypomania have more difficulty recognizing the signs they’re manic than do those with full-blown mania. Rapid speech and over socializing are often signs of hypomania. The more you know about your particular form of mania, the easier it will be to notice the first signs that you need help. I know: It stinks to have to get help when you’re finally feeling good again, but mania is simply the flip side of depression and needs to be treated just as aggressively.

The best defense against summer mania is prevention. This, of course, starts with medications. But as you may already know, while medications are invaluable at preventing the large mood swings, many people with bipolar disorder still have to deal with the smaller manias that slip through the medications and create disasters. There is also the problem of going off medications because you start to feel good and your brain tells you you’re not really sick anymore. This is really easy to do when it’s so nice and sunny outside. You often feel so much better and you think: It’s finally over! No more bipolar disorder for me! I’m cured!

And yet, just as depression creates false feelings of despair and hopelessness, mania creates the false feelings that we are fine and no longer need medications. The treatment window for mania is much less than that for depression, which is why mania must be prevented, instead of merely treated when it happens to show up. If you have even one thought that you “don’t really need those medications any more,” this is a time to talk with your doctor.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a real burden to have to look for mania every time I start to feel good. It’s the reality of this disorder however, and I’ve found there are certain things I say, think, and do every single time I begin to get manic. By learning these signs, writing them down, and then teaching my friends and family to recognize them as well, I’ve finally gotten more control over my mania. You can do the same. Here is a short version of my list:

What I say:

  • Do you think I’m manic?
  • I don’t think I’m manic!
  • This weather is so fantastic!
  • I am so happy to finally feel better!
  • I’m not manic. I’m just not depressed.
  • Leave me alone! You just want to ruin my fun!
  • I’m normal! This is the real me!

What I think:

  • Am I finally better?
  • Is this the real me?
  • Was the diagnosis wrong?

What I do:

  • Go out every night.
  • Drink a lot more.
  • Talk a lot faster.
  • Join groups or take classes.
  • Meet new people like crazy.
  • Stop eating good food, or hardly eat at all. Sleep less.

I always try to evaluate myself as soon as I have the first thought that I might be manic. You can do the same.

Ask yourself the following questions: Have I stopped my medications because I feel better? Have I conveniently decided not to tell anyone about doing this? Am I sleeping a lot less than normal and not feeling tired at all? Am I more irritated with people than usual? Am I using drugs or alcohol without thinking of what they’re doing to my brain? Was I depressed in the winter and now feel a lot better? Are things getting done really easily? Have I stopped eating or taking care of the people in my life? Have I become selfish? Has anyone expressed concern about my behavior? If you answer yes to any one of these questions, it may be time to talk with your doctor about mania.

I’ve had too many summer manic disasters and they took a lot of recovery time. I don’t want to go through it again this summer. If you’re well enough to read this article and see mild signs of mania, you have time to prevent a serious mood swing that could land you in the hospital, or cause you to make decisions you will regret. Do now what it takes to protect yourself, your family, your finances, and your life. You will thank me (and especially yourself) when the next winter comes around.

*   *   *   *   *

Watch out for these summer mania triggers

  • Extra sunshine (such as staying at a park or beach all day)
  • Weddings (including your own)
  • Any travel at all, especially to a new time zone
  • Graduation (for yourself or your children)
  • Visitors to your home
  • July 4 (this is often a boisterous, all-day event with a lot of stimulation)
  • Summer activities such as water sports or baseball
  • Summer break from school

Printed as “Watch Out for Summer Mania”, Summer 2005 Bp Magazine. 

Here are the comments from the original post!

47 COMMENTS
  1. I feel bad that we all go through this but It helps to know and read right now. Im not alone. Not that fly stuck on fly paper waiting to be squashed by some unseen and felt loss. I reading to study sign and options. This has been helpful.

  2. Oh wow!! What you described I’ve is exactly what I have gone through for years…winter depression and summer mania. I had no insight into this and neither was it explained to me that it was a common trait.
    Thank you!

  3. I’m so manic I’m depressed! I’m sitting here listening to 70’s music I loved that bring me me back summers past……….and just crying for the people and places I miss. I want to move, to go to zing and I have no car, no money……….. so I sit and watch another summer slip away. I want to spend, I want to party, eat, read, watch, I stay up all night and sleep all day and then chase the afternoon wondering where the day went. I want to smell beach sand, and the ocean………… My mind races, my thoughts race, I kill myself working extra hours…………… I want it all to end, I want it to last forever………

  4. Does anyone have any empathy for me? I feel I am not on the right medications for bi polar, I’m taking Effexor xr 150 mg in morning, Zoloft 75mg at bedtime and clonazepam 1 mg. I ask people what they are taking not to pry, and I worked as a pharmacist so know about hippa
    I have been badly struggling for the past 5 years with bi polar 2. Mainly a lot of depression but also hypomania. These days I have severe mood swings. I am now shopping for a new psychiatrist. If anyone can help I would appreciate. Also I could not take many mood stabilizers so if there is anyone who is able to control bi polar 2 without mood stabilizers please tell me how do you manage. It will be greatly appreciated. God bless!

  5. I want to let the other bloggers know. I have been diagnosed with bi polar for only 3 years. After my hypomania and gambling away $3,000 to total $50,000, that is last year and this year, I had thoughts of committing suicide. I wanted to take all the pills I had. I called the suicide prevention line because there was a good part that still wanted to live. I am on Medicare this month so will have to shop for psychiatrists and psychologists.
    I cannot afford to have another crises, I need to be helped with proper meds. I’m taking effexor xr 150 mg in morning. Zoloft 75mg , and clonazepam 1 mg.at.bedtime, this is helping me with my OCD, but not really my bi polar. I’m going throu a lot also have hoarding behavior and bi polar 2. Any suggestions

Julie

If You Love My Bipolar and Depression Books, Please Let Amazon Know Your Thoughts

If you love my books, please let Amazon know! This allows others to learn from your experiences and gets my work to people around the world. I never read reviews, so always free to be honest. I have one goal: to stop the suffering caused by mental health disorders. It is possible and my books show people how. We can do this! 

Here is a link to the Julie A. Fast books on Amazon.

Thanks for your review! 

Julie 

The #1 Bipolar Disorder Blog on the Internet

Here is the blog.  You can view the original post on Bp Magazine to read all of the comments!

Three Bipolar Disorder Symptoms No One Wants to Talk About

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

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, crazy 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 symptoms below represent the side of bipolar disorder we all know is there, but we rarely want to let the public know exists. This is only an opinion of course, but I’m truly interested to know if you feel the same.

#1 Dangerous, aggressive and violent behavior in bipolar disorder

I work with parents and partners of those with bipolar disorder. In the majority of situations, people who are in a strong dysphoric manic episode can be dangerous, aggressive and violent. Physical assault and weapons are not uncommon. Many men go to jail because of this behavior when they actually need psychiatric help. People, both men and women who are mild mannered and kind when well, get super human strength along with the aggression- ripping a sink out of the wall- punching through windows- throwing chairs and other dangerous behavior are not uncommon.

Families and partners suffer in silence because they are scared to tell anyone about what really goes on at home.

I have violent thoughts when the dysphoric mania is raging. I used to chase down cars if the driver flipped me off or made a strange face. It is not my goal to scare anyone reading this blog. It’s my goal that we are honest about these hidden and pushed under the rug symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The solution is management. People with bipolar disorder do not have these symptoms unless the mood swings are raging. Prevent the mood swings and you can prevent the dangerous, aggressive and violent behavior.

#2 Psychosis in Bipolar Disorder

I have rapid cycling bipolar disorder two with psychotic features. I experienced undiagnosed psychotic symptoms from age 19 to 31 when I was finally diagnosed. I’ve had hallucinations and delusions all of my adult life. What scares me is that no one and I mean no one educated me about psychosis when I was diagnosed. It was as if the symptoms didn’t exist. When I learned the extent of my psychosis, I was appalled that I had lived with it for so long. My symptoms were mostly visual hallucinations and paranoid delusions. I didn’t know that others didn’t have them as well! If you have bipolar disorder one, there is a 70% 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, this is called schizo affective disorder. Do you or your loved ones have psychosis? If bipolar disorder is involved, psychosis could be involved as well.

#3 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 common! If you have bipolar, 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. Mine got worse after [intense therapy I had for severe depression.] It’s something I find distressing, but it’s easy to manage. I want us to be open about cognitive issues. This is the only way we can get help! Mine tend to linger all of the time, but get worse with mood swings. A perfect example of this- I am supposed to put this blog up by midnight the day of my blog slot. I reminded myself all day yesterday to put it up, but still managed to go to sleep without posting it on time. I have to live with these symptoms and even though a few things slip through, I do control the majority of my minor memory problems with a good support system!

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

Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness. We have all of our symptoms while in a mood swing. This means we are STABLE when we are not in a mood swing. The 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 symptoms even existed. This is why we must have a management plan that can recognize the dangerous, aggressive and violent behavior, psychosis and cognitive impairment as soon as it begins.

I know we want to protect our reputations around this illness. We don’t want to be seen as different or freaks. 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 to stop the symptoms and make them stay away forever!

My books, including Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder help with all of these symptoms.

Julie

I love the work of Bp Magazine.

Bipolar Disorder Hypersexuality

People often ask me: “Julie, isn’t bipolar disorder hyper sexuality just an excuse for someone to have a wild sex life and cheat whenever they want? It seems that when people say they can’t help how they act because hyper sexuality a part of a mania mood swing they are lying and making excuses!”

I can give an opinion from both sides of this situation- actually, three sides! I have bipolar disorder. I had a partner for ten years who has bipolar disorder and I write books on the topic and coach parents and partners regarding bipolar disorder. 

Real bipolar hypersexuality is not an excuse for a wild sex life. Instead, it’s a symptom of bipolar illness. When manic, our frontal lobes turn off and our ability to make thoughtful decisions is diminished. This naturally leads to really, really poor choices around sexual behavior. 

Bipolar Disorder Mania Basics 

Bipolar is episodic. This means the hyper sexuality associated with mania in bipolar disorder will not be consistent. It will come and go and will always, without exception, be attached to an obvious manic episode.

I’m going to repeat this as it’s the most important fact around this topic. People with bipolar hyper sexuality are not continually cheating. They get manic and their sexual behavior changes greatly as compared to their normal behavior around sex.

Mania mood swing change the way we would normally act in our private lives. The sexual behavior created by hyper sexuality in mania is not a part of our personality and it is not based on what has happened to us in the past. It has nothing at all to do with trauma. 

Hyper sexuality is the result of a chemical change in our brain that takes away our inhibitions and ability to make smart decisions. I call it the animal mood swing. When I’m hyper sexual, I  am a predator. I only want what I want and the feelings of others don’t matter to me. This is a mood swing. My regular self would never act or think the way I do when mania is raging. 

Ever.

Bipolar Hypersexuality Leads to Personal Pain

People with bipolar disorder are usually very upset and confused about hypersexual manic mood swings. They ruin our relationships and cause great stress in our lives. STDs and unplanned pregnancies are common. These episodes have a very clear beginning, middle and end and when the mood swing is gone, we go back to our baseline behavior around sexuality and are often so shocked, embarrassed and are upset by what happened. There is one exception to this- and that is euphoric mania hypersexuality that is seen as a positive- a personal, sexual revolution that we believe changes our lives for the better! This is simply a lack of insight- and will often cause problems with our partners, but it’s hard for us to see this!

If the sexual behavior is truly due to bipolar disorder, medications and a good management plan help the person manage the mania that creates the hypersexuality.  They keep people with bipolar on track. And yes, it’s can be VERY difficult to give up manic hyper sexuality. Very difficult. 

I have to be very careful about hyper sexuality as it ruled my life for many years. I now manage it by managing my mania. I shared a link below about my own struggles with the symptom.

Avoid the Bipolar Hyper Sexual Conversation 

All of my books teach you to avoid The Bipolar Conversation. (If you’re new to my work, this is a full chapter in both Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder).  The way your partner talks about sexuality will sound very different when a mood swing is raging. The behaviors will be more sexual and the words will be different – such as changing the way he or she refers to a certain body part.  If you try to talk to someone who is hyper sexual about their sexual behavior and they ignore you or tell you that it’s all in your head and they are fine, etc. you have to compare this behavior to regular behavior to know if what they are saying has anything to do with mania. If you have the Health Cards, creating a hyper sexuality card is very helpful.  Many partners meet each other when the person with bipolar is manic and hyper sexual, so it might take some time to figure out symptoms so that you can learn to avoid The Bipolar Conversation. 

Reader Question about Hypersexuality 

I recently had a reader ask me about the difference between sexuality in general and hyper sexuality in bipolar. She said, “My boyfriend told me he wants to see other people. He still wants to be with me, but isn’t interested in staying monogamous as this is not how he wants to live his life. He told me that it was my choice if I wanted to stay with him. He was not out to hurt me. This was how he talked at the beginning of our relationship, but then he agreed to move in with me and I thought he had changed and wanted to be monogamous, but now it has come back.  I went through our mania check list- like in Loving and to be honest, he is sleeping and work is ok right now.  He’s not staying out late and he doesn’t have another girlfriend at this time. He said he just wanted to be honest and he was sorry it wasn’t working out like I hoped. Is he secretly manic and just doesn’t know it! How do I tell the difference!?” 

This is not hyper sexuality. It’s too calm and it is words only. Hyperseuxality is mania and mania is always active. The words will be accompanied by fast talking, changes in the eyes, movements and behaviors associated with hyper sexuality such as suddenly getting on line for a hook up and meeting someone that night. The way the reader describes her boyfriend above simply sounds like he is telling her what he wants and needs.  There is no great angst and he is clear in what he’s saying. It’s not mania. 

Bipolar hyper sexuality will always be active. It will be filled with energy and purpose. It is goal driven and in many cases quite predatory. Sex outside the relationship is common. Hyper sexuality often feels GREAT to the person with bipolar and is devastating to the partner who doesn’t know what is going on in the relationship.

Hyper sexuality symptoms need to be listed on a symptom list and prevented just as you would prevent any bipolar disorder symptoms. 

Hyper sexuality ruled my life for many years. I no longer allow it to be in my life.  I write about this in my Psychology Today blog Bipolar, Hypersexual and Celibate. 

As a partner of someone with bipolar disorder, it’s essential that mania is discussed openly so that the manic symptom of hypersexiuality can be prevented. 

Julie