Bipolar Triggers - Person to Person
May 16, 2016 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I've been diagnosed bipolar for around 15 years now. I've been relatively stable on medication for the last 5 or so years, I deal with some depressive episodes but I haven't gone into a hypo-manic or mixed state in quite a while, but upon visiting a college friend dealing with Bipolar/Schizoaffective recently I found myself losing my mind in a mix of hypomanic glory and mixed state despair. Do you trigger off of other people? More details past the break.

This past week I went to visit an old college friend. She and I were discovering that we were bipolar right about the same time (15 years old). She was always more of a textbook example of Bipolar I (dealing with bouts of true mania/delusion/psychosis), where I'm more of a textbook case of Bipolar II (I tend to be more on the depressive side with occasional bouts of hypo-mania/mixed states. I've only had one bout with delusion/psychosis and the doctor didn't consider it long enough to put me in the Bipolar I category).
I hadn't seen this friend in years and finally went to see her only to find that she's progressed to more of a Schizoaffective Bipolar I; now she hears a lot more voices, reality is getting a little more fluid for her, she thinks that there are black helicopters that follow her movements, things like that.
We always would potentiate each other's moods, something I had forgotten about, and despite having not seen each other in a decade I found myself slowly losing my mind with her over those two days. It's been 48 hours since we've really talked and I'm finding myself in a state of anxiety/mixed state (dark hypo-mania) that I haven't experienced in a long time.
I know there are specific triggers that can set me off (lack of sleep, really GOOD news, really BAD news) and I've learned over the years how to respond properly through therapy featuring facets of DBT.
This past week just blew the doors off of that though. I know I'll settle back down to my (slightly-south-of-center) mood soon, but I'm just curious to know if there are other people out there who find other PEOPLE and/or their bipolar behaviors to be a trigger.

Keeping this anonymous because despite the fact that I'm out in my personal and professional life, she is not. She's amazing at keeping it at bay during work, so many of her coworkers are unaware of the tilted reality she lives in.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Not for bipolar, but my clinical OCD definitely triggers off the behaviors of other people who show that behavior. I can get into counting/setting up challenges for myself instantly if I see someone else doing it, and I remember to go into some exercises as quickly as I can, just to get them back under control.
posted by xingcat at 8:02 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am a psych nurse. I have a lot of bipolar friends/family.

Yes. Absolutely. And it's really hard to stop the dominoes falling as it spreads. It'd be more interesting to track if I was more detached.

How I've phrased it before is that the depressed person might make some amazingly compelling arguments, or the manic person might seem super efficient in that moment...
posted by RainyJay at 8:06 AM on May 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

My partner has bipolar, so I've done a fair amount of time in support groups either for people with bipolar, or for their spouses/family members. From both sides of that coin, I've definitely heard the "people triggering each other's moods/behaviors" story. Not everyone, and not all the time, but it's not at all unusual either.

From my own perspective, dealing with anxiety, PTSD, and unipolar depression, the depression rarely feeds off anyone else's mood/behaviors but the anxiety absolutely does. CBT, and maybe a benzo if it's super-excessively bad, go a long way toward addressing that if I'm aware of it happening. (The PTSD stuff is so personal and idiosyncratic for me that it would be hard to piggyback off someone else, I think.)
posted by Stacey at 8:50 AM on May 16, 2016

I don't have Bipolar Disorder, but I have had various anxiety diagnoses and tend toward anxiety, and anxiety for me is absolutely contagious. I'm a therapist, and it's something I really have to pay attention to when I'm around clients.

Depression, with which I've also been diagnosed, doesn't seem as contagious to me, but I've talked to a lot of therapists who find it much more contagious than I do. Hearing stories from other people that trigger memories of depressive episodes/grief/loss can sometimes knock me into bleak moods, though.
posted by lazuli at 10:16 AM on May 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Mania is definitely contagious for me. Match made in hell = a high school boyfriend who had a manic episode at the same time as me. We ran away together. For 3 days. There are people I love who I know are not good for me.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:15 AM on May 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

I do not have Bipolar Disorder, but I have been diagnosed with Anxiety, OCD and Depression, which are generally well-managed...

When I see Anxiety, I usually go into "protect this person" mode, and their anxiety does not trigger my own. OCD was never triggered by another person, but it was CERTAINLY exacerbated by going online while obsessing (oof.)...

But depression? I never thought it could be contagious until I saw Lars VonTrier's Melancholia. It left me truly depressed (in that "nothing matters. I feel dead inside.") way. For say, a week. It was bananas.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2016

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