How do I know if I am manic or depressed? I can’t trust myself.

Catherine Reynolds, Mental Health America

For people living with Bipolar Disorder, it can be difficult to know whether you are manic, depressed, or have no symptoms at all. When you first get diagnosed, this can be especially difficult –but  a big part of managing your symptoms of Bipolar Disorder is self-awareness. The reality of Bipolar Disorder is that it makes you question yourself and your reality . Distinguishing mania from depression comes down to self-awareness through monitoring your moods, which can be difficult, but is possible. Here are a few tips to help keep you in check.

Keep a mood journal. Keeping a mood journal is a great way to track warning signs of a bipolar episode. You can write down your feelings or symptoms in a journal, or even just write notes on your phone. There are also many apps and websites to help you that can send you daily reminders to log your moods and symptoms. People often do not realize if and what kind of episode they are experiencing until afterwards. Journaling makes it very easy to look back and notice trends to help you recognize it earlier the next time.  

Understand what your symptoms look like. It is easy to look online at a list of symptoms but it’s far more difficult to recognize how they manifest in your life. Symptoms manifest in behaviors which vary greatly from person to person. You might understand what your symptoms are but do you know what it looks like to you? Often people don’t realize they are manic until afterwards or when they are already in a deep depression. One way to help this is by writing your own list of symptoms that are specific to you. Go online and look through the symptoms and think about your behavior when you knew you were in a manic episode and match your specific actions to symptoms. Do the same thing with your depressive symptoms. Manic and depressive episodes are characterized by things you wouldn’t ordinarily do, all happening in the same time frame. By keeping your own symptoms list on hand, you can easily refer to it when you are unsure of what kind of state you are in.

The good news is that it gets better with time. At first you might feel like you have no idea what you are doing and have no control, but the longer you have been dealing with your symptoms, the better you will be at managing them. Every time something happens, from minor shifts in mood to whole episodes, think of it as a learning experience that is helping you better prepare for the next time. As you learn more about your symptoms, you will be able to catch yourself and your triggers before you get to a crisis point.

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