Dear Neil: I’ve heard many people in recent years talk about bipolar disorder. They say that they have a child who is bipolar, or a husband, or a boss. I have never exactly understood what bipolar is. Can you explain what it means to be bipolar?
Thinking I Might Be in Kansas City
Dear Kansas City: The best description I’m aware of is the Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale, developed by Dr. Ronald Pies and refined by Dr. Nassir Ghaemi. I will reprint it below. If this description fits you, then I would recommend you see a psychiatrist or a professional that specializes in mood disorders. Read through this entirely before filling in any blanks.
Some individuals notice that their mood and/or energy levels shift drastically from time to time______.
These individuals notice that, at times, their mood and/or energy level is very low, and at other times, very high______.
During their ‘‘low’’ phases, these individuals often feel a lack of energy; a need to stay in bed or get extra sleep; and little or no motivation to do things they need to do______.
They often put on weight during these periods______.
During their low phases, these individuals often feel ‘’blue’’, sad all the time or depressed______.
Sometimes, during these low phases, they feel hopeless or even suicidal______.
Their ability to function at work or socially is impaired______.
Typically, these low phases last for a few weeks, but sometimes they last only a few days______.
Individuals with this pattern may experience “normal’’ moods in between mood swings, where they function normally_____.
They may then notice a marked shift or ‘’switch’’ in the way they feel______.
Their energy increases above what is normal, and they often get things done they would not ordinarily be able to do______.
Sometimes, during these “high” periods, these individuals feel as if they have too much energy or feel hyper ______.
Some individuals, during these high periods, may feel irritable, “on edge” or aggressive______.
Some individuals, during these high periods, take on too many activities at once______.
During these high periods, some individuals may spend money in ways that cause them trouble______.
They may be more talkative, outgoing or sexual during these periods______.
Sometimes their behavior during these high periods seems strange or annoying to others______.
Sometimes during the high periods, these individuals get into difficulty with co-workers or the police______.
Sometimes they increase their alcohol or non-prescription drug use during these high periods______.
Now go back and put a check after each sentence that definitely describes you.
Scoring: Each sentence checked is worth one point. Add 6 points for ‘’fits me very well,’’ 4 points for ‘’fits me fairly well,’’ and 2 points for ‘‘fits me to some degree.’’ Total Score = _________. If your score is 13 or above, you fit the diagnostic description of bipolar disorder.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 23rd year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website at www.heartrelationships.com. His book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive” is now available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.