I have bipolar disorder and have been on treatment for 9 years. I have recently switched mood stabilizers (doctor’s orders) and I am also going back to college to get my bachelor’s degree at the age of thirty. Between the daily stress with the kids and running a household and the stress of a major life change, my husband is taking every good mood as a sign of mania. He is hyper-vigilant for it, which is great that he cares so much. He is, however, also driving me nuts. The thing is, I myself am not sure when I need to seek help for a manic episode. My episodes tend to be very mild and rather rare. So how do I know that it has gotten bad enough that I need a doctor’s help now as opposed to waiting a day or two till I can talk to my therapist? Anything you can tell me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
You have asked a very good question but it is difficult to answer because mood is relative. “Normal” mood varies considerably person-to-person. I would discuss this question with your therapist who presumably has had the opportunity to experience the variation in your moods. He or she most likely would know what would constitute mania for you or simply a good mood.
It also would be helpful to create a description of what characterizes your good moods and what characterizes a manic episode. What are the differences? What would your husband say the differences are? What would your therapist say the differences are? Together, you and your therapist and husband, could attempt to create a definitive list. This information could be a valuable tool for you and could help resolve disagreements between you and your husband.
Another idea to discuss with your therapist, would be calling him or her during the height of a suspected manic episode. Agree in advance that you will allow your therapist to determine whether you are experiencing mania or just a good mood. If you designate your therapist as the arbiter, it might help to reduce your husband’s anxiety. In addition, create a plan for handling each possible outcome. For instance, if your therapist suspects mania, you will agree to call your psychiatrist and request a medication change or schedule an extra therapy appointment for the week. Think of it as creating an advance directive for your mood. Be certain to include your husband in all of your plans.
Congratulations on remaining in treatment, your symptom improvement and on your return to college. It is always great to hear positive stories from our readers. I wish you continued success. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle