View Full Version : Are you aware?

09-18-12, 02:11 AM
Does anyone else have problems identifying when your moods are changing?

I know when I am depressed, that's really easy. However when I'm hypomanic or even mixed it's hard for me to realize what exactly is happening and that I'm shifting. In all, it all seems pretty normal to me, probably because I have been bipolar since I was a kid (12?) and I've grown up thinking all these moods were normal. Especially since my mother and brothers are bipolar as well and seeing the way they were I was no different, except for eeeveryone else in school and my friends and at work weren't like it and I was taken back when I tried to relate and everyone else was like żo_o?

I have read somewhere that some bipolars have this problem and a percentage are even completely unaware that they have a problem at all when they really are sick (I believe the term is anosognosia). And that there are memory problems associated with bipolar disorder since something about the mood shifting and memory retrieval share some kind of the same process. Some people have difficulty remembering things in past moods and especially if you have a psychotic episode.

I had a manic episode the beginning of this year and since my memory has been thrashed and I can only remember a few events that happened during that time.

My question is, does anyone else sometimes not have this insight or memory problems? Or if anyone else is more knowledgeable in this, or read anything else like this before, know anything about it?

09-22-12, 10:23 PM
Unrelated to bipolar disorder, all people are under the influence of state-dependent memory. That means it is easier for people to retrieve memories that were formed in a mood or mental state congruent with the one they are currently in. For example, when you are happy, it is easier to think up happy memories. By "easier" I mean research has shown that it takes less time, they are more emotionally salient, and you are able to generate more of them. It is harder to think up sad memories when you are happy. They take longer to think of, are less numerous, and don't feel as "strong" emotionally as the mood-congruent (happy) memories.

This is awesome for people who are happy, but not so great for people who are already depressed, because that means it's easier for them to think of sad memories (which can make depression worse) instead of happy ones. Not that it's impossible to think of happy things when you're depressed, but it's a lot harder.

They've shown that this phenomenon extends beyond mood, and includes many different kind of mental states, and even reflects the environment you are in. For example, if you say or do something while drunk, you will be more able to remember it when you are drunk again. And in one study, they had students study for a test in an above-water room or an under-water room, then tested them in either the same (above or below water) environment, or a different one. They found that students performed better on the test if they were tested in the same environment they studied in. It didn't matter if they were above or under water, it just had to be the same kind of environment they studied in.

So all of that is to say that what you're experiencing is totally normal. It's typical to be able to remember previous manic episodes better when you are manic again, because you are in the same mental state. However, you will almost never remember the details of a psychotic episode, because you are psychotic. When you are in a mental state that necessitates a break from reality, you don't really form much in the way of concrete, identifiable memories.

For me personally, I often don't notice the symptoms of a mood episode until they become moderate to severe. I had my first major depressive episode when I was 12, and my first manic episode when I was 15. I have lived with bipolar disorder for a very long time, but no matter how long I have it, I still don't recognize the changes in my mood in the beginning phase of a mood episode. Depression in particular is hard for me to identify, which seems odd considering that I am more often depressed than manic by probably a 5:1 ratio at least.

But depression seems to creep in slowly, whereas mania often comes very fast - I wake up one morning and bam, manic. But because I am manic at the time, I don't really notice it until things start to fall apart around me, or other people become concerned. I've been asked many times during manic episodes if I was on drugs. Usually if people start asking me if I'm high, it's a good sign that something is wrong. It is often only in the aftermath that I can look back and pinpoint when the episode began.