How a Person with Bipolar Thinks: Their Perspective

September 14, 2023

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What does bipolar feel like” is a question commonly asked by loved ones of individuals with bipolar disorder.

How a person with bipolar thinks involves broadly similar cognitive processes to those of individuals without the condition. How a bipolar person thinks differs, though, as a result of the profound impact of fluctuating moods on their thoughts and actions.

Those with mood disorders often find it challenging to separate their emotional states from their thought patterns. This means that emotions often permeate their cognitive processes. In the case of bipolar disorder, individuals experience significant mood swings, encompassing depressive lows and manic highs. This can be mirrored in their thought patterns, oscillating between extremely negative and overtly euphoric emotional states.

If someone in your life is grappling with this aggravating condition, read on to learn more about these key issues:

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  • What is bipolar disorder like?
  • What is it like to be bipolar?
  • How does a bipolar person act?
  • How do bipolar people act day to day?
  • Connect with treatment for bipolar disorder in California.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a complex mental health condition characterized by extreme and fluctuating mood swings. These mood swings typically consist of two primary phases:

  1. Manic or hypomanic episodes: During manic episodes, individuals experience elevated, often euphoric, moods. They may feel highly energetic, engage in impulsive behaviors, have racing thoughts, and require very little sleep. Hypomania is a milder form of mania but still involves heightened mood and increased activity.
  2. Depressive episodes: Depressive episodes are marked by profound sadness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, fatigue, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, and sometimes thoughts of death or suicide.

Bipolar disorder can significantly disrupt a person’s life, relationships, and daily functioning. The mental health condition comes in various forms. Bipolar examples include bipolar I (characterized by full-blown manic episodes and depressive episodes), bipolar II (with hypomanic and depressive episodes), and cyclothymic disorder (with milder mood swings). While the exact cause of bipolar is not fully understood, genetics and environmental factors are believed to play roles in its development.

DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) reports that approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States presently have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Effective treatment often involves a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle management. With proper care, individuals with bipolar disorder can lead fulfilling lives and manage their condition effectively. It is vital to seek professional help for an accurate diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan if you suspect that you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder.

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What Does Being Bipolar Feel Like?

Living with bipolar disorder is a unique and multifaceted experience, and the way it feels can vary significantly from person to person. That said, there are some common emotional and psychological elements often associated with this condition:

  • Extreme highs and lows: Bipolar individuals ma describe their mood swings as intense and dramatic. During manic or hypomanic phases, they might feel like they are on top of the world. Their thoughts race with creativity and enthusiasm, and they may take on numerous projects simultaneously. Conversely, during depressive episodes, they can experience deep despair, hopelessness, and a profound lack of motivation. These emotional extremes can be overwhelming.
  • Rapid shifts: One of the defining characteristics of bipolar disorder is the speed at which mood shifts can occur. These shifts can happen over a matter of days, or even hours, making it challenging for a person to predict how they will feel at any given moment. This unpredictability can be unsettling and disruptive.
  • Emotional rollercoaster: Bipolar individuals often describe their emotional life as like riding a rollercoaster. They can experience intense emotions that might be far more extreme than those felt by people without the disorder. This rollercoaster ride can be exhausting and challenging to manage, affecting not only their own well-being but also their relationships with others.
  • Impulsivity and risk-taking: During manic phases, bipolar behavior examples may include heightened impulsivity and engaging in risky behaviors. People with bipolar may spend extravagantly, engage in substance abuse, or pursue reckless activities without considering the consequences. This can lead to issues in various aspects of life, including relationships, finances, and personal safety.
  • Inability to trust emotions: Many people with bipolar disorder find it difficult to trust their own emotions because they know that their moods can shift dramatically. This can create a sense of insecurity and confusion about their true feelings. They may question whether their emotions are genuine or merely a result of their bipolar disorder.
  • Chronic stress: Managing the ups and downs of bipolar disorder can be incredibly stressful. The unpredictability of mood swings and the impact on daily life can take a toll on mental and physical health. This chronic stress can contribute to fatigue, anxiety, and other health issues.

While these experiences are common, each person’s journey with bipolar disorder is unique. Effective treatment often involves mood stabilizers, therapy (such as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) or DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), and support from mental health professionals and loved ones. If you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder, seeking professional help will inform proper diagnosis and treatment planning. With appropriate care and support, individuals with bipolar disorder can manage their condition and lead fulfilling lives.

Common Bipolar Thinking Patterns

People with bipolar disorder often experience unique thought patterns influenced by their mood swings. Here are some common thought patterns associated with bipolar:

Cyclical thoughts

Many people with bipolar disorder describe their thinking as cyclical. During manic or hypomanic phases, they might have positive, rational thoughts and a productive work ethic. However, during depressive episodes, they may struggle to meet deadlines, experience anxiety, and have self-deprecating thoughts. These thought patterns are closely tied to their mood, with no fixed duration for each state.

Depression-induced negative thinking

During depressive episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder often grapple with negative and hopeless thoughts. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and low self-worth can dominate their thinking, leading to a pessimistic outlook on life.

Manic racing thoughts

Manic episodes are characterized by elevated mood, increased energy, and racing thoughts. This can negatively affect their ability to focus and complete tasks. Some may have multiple thoughts simultaneously, making it challenging to capture them accurately.

Self-harm and suicidal ideation

People with bipolar disorder are more susceptible to experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These thoughts can be life-threatening and require immediate attention and support.

Psychosis-induced delusional thinking

In severe cases, bipolar disorder can lead to psychosis, where individuals experience delusional and paranoid thoughts that are out of touch with reality. This can be distressing as they believe things are happening that are not actually occurring.

Managing these thought patterns often involves a combination of treatments, including medication, therapy, support, and education. Each person’s experience with bipolar disorder is unique, so treatment plans should be tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. We can help you achieve this at Connections Mental Health in Southern California.


How does a bipolar person think?

Bipolar individuals may experience shifts in thinking due to mood swings. During manic episodes, their thoughts can be racing, grandiose, and impulsive, while during depressive episodes, they tend to have negative, self-critical, and hopeless thoughts. That said, thinking patterns can vary widely among individuals.

What are bipolar people like?

Bipolar individuals are diverse, and their personalities cannot be generalized. They may appear outgoing and energetic during manic phases but withdrawn and melancholic during depressive phases. Each person’s experience with bipolar disorder is unique.

What does it feel like to be bipolar?

Being bipolar involves experiencing extreme shifts in mood and energy levels. During manic phases, the person might feel euphoric, restless, and full of ideas, while during depressive phases, they may feel hopeless, fatigued, and unable to derive pleasure from activities they once enjoyed.

What are signs of bipolar disorder?

Signs of bipolar disorder include recurrent periods of mania or hypomania (elevated mood, impulsivity) and depressive episodes (low mood, fatigue), often accompanied by changes in sleep patterns, energy levels, appetite, and concentration. A proper diagnosis should be made by a mental health professional based on a comprehensive assessment.

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Treatment for Bipolar Disorder at Connections

Being bipolar does not need to define your life. For those seeking stability in the face of turbulent emotions, Connections Mental Health offers compassionate and individualized mental health treatment.

At our luxury facility, you will find the environment is welcoming, and inclusive. The dedicated team at our bipolar treatment center in Orange County blend evidence-based and holistic treatments in a center that is designed to combine the warmth of home with the benefits of cutting-edge psychiatric care.

If you or a loved one has bipolar and is experiencing episodes of mania or depression, restore daily functioning and improve overall well-being at Connections Mental Health. Call the friendly team at 844-413-0009 to discuss your options for effectively combating bipolar disorder.

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