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  • Writer's pictureAnn Christensen


When I had my second psychotic episode, I met with a psychiatrist. He read the symptoms of bipolar disorder and asked if this sounded familiar. I was bowled over. It took no convincing that I was in the thralls of huge mood swings. Once I was properly diagnosed as Bipolar Type II Disorder, I began my road to recovery. I was so relieved to have a proper diagnosis.


• Feel very “up,” “high” or “elated.”

• Have an abundance of energy.

• Have increased activity levels.

• Feel “jumpy” or “wired.”

• Have trouble sleeping.

• Become more active than usual.

• Talk really fast about many different things.

• Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy.”

• Feel like their thoughts are going very fast.

• Think they can do many things at once.

• Do risky things, like spend too much money or have reckless sex.


• Feel very sad, down, empty or hopeless.

• Have very little energy.

• Have decreased activity levels.

• Have trouble sleeping or they may sleep too little or too much.

• Feel like they can’t enjoy anything.

• Feel worried and empty.

• Have trouble concentrating.

• Forget things a lot.

Eat too much or too little.

Either mania or depression can lead to extreme behaviors, including hurting yourself. If you feel you are at risk of hurting yourself or others, ask for help. This may be the hardest, bravest thing you will ever do.

Suicide Prevention Help

• Talk to someone you trust.

• Dial 211: Community information line.

• Dial 911: Emergency ambulance or police service.

• Call 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Line.

• Visit these Online Suicide Prevention sites: or

The National Institute of Health (NIH) provides clinical definitions of the various bipolar types:

Bipolar Type I Disorder

Defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least two weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.

Bipolar Type II Disorder

Defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.

Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)

Defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years (one year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

The main question is:

Do you see yourself in these lists?

Do your symptoms interfere with your relationships?

Do your symptoms affect your work performance?

Do you experience impulse control issues that cause problems?

Do you have low energy with negative, sometimes self-destructive thoughts?


In my book, Bipolar Almanac™: Create a life worth living, I share how to set up a Personal Almanac™ to track symptoms, triggers, and chart energy swings.

• Create a binder or set up files on your desktop.

• Make a list of any experience you have had with mania or depression. This includes extremely happy or sad times that did not result in an episode.

• Write about it. What events were happening in your life at that time?

• Rate your stress levels or any other circumstance that may have affected your mood.

• Place this information in your Personal Almanac


Ann Christensen writes and speaks about the mental health, artistic temperament and creativity. Bipolar Almanac: Create a life worth living is the first in a Sleepy Phoenix series: Mental Health Toolkit.

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