Can You Hurt People During Mania? Does A Bipolar Person Know Right From Wrong?
By: Sarah Fader
Updated March 08, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Stephanie Beebe, MSW, LISW-S
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by extreme highs and extreme lows. During “high” periods, a person with bipolar disorder experiences something called mania, which refers to impulsive behaviors that may include dangerous decisions. Additionally, some people with bipolar disorder may try to cover up impulsive or problematic behaviors through lying, and at times it may seem that they are unaware that they have said something untrue. If you have witnessed this behavior in someone you love, you may feel frustrated and wonder if they are purposely lying to you. In this article, we will explore background information about bipolar disorder, as well as whether a bipolar person knows right from wrong during mania.
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects as many as 2.8% of adults in the United States in a given year. People with bipolar disorder experience psychological cycles that alternate between mania (“high” periods) and depression (“low” periods). When a person experiences mania, they typically have excess energy, don't need much sleep, and have many ideas. Mania can be exhausting, but it can come with feelings of near-invincibility. During a manic period, a person might engage in problematic behaviors such as impulsive spending, gambling, substance use, and high-risk sexual activity.
Following mania, a bipolar person will experience a low period of depression, during which they may lack energy, neglect self-care and personal hygiene, and possibly experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, seeking emergency medical care is critical. If you need emergency medical attention, call 911 immediately. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This lifeline is available 24 hours a day.
Types Of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Type 1: People with Bipolar Type 1 experience longer manic episodes where they feel "high" and energetic. Eventually, they'll crash and enter a depressive episode.
Bipolar Type 2: With Bipolar Type 2, a person mostly experiences depressive episodes. However, people with Bipolar Type 2 experience something called hypomania, which lasts for a period of approximately 3-5 days. If left untreated, hypomania can turn into full-blown mania.
The Actions Of Someone With Bipolar Disorder
When a person with bipolar disorder experiences a manic episode, they tend to have racing thoughts. They may think fast, act impulsively, and have a sense of grandiosity or large ego. As a result, they may lie or say things that are untrue about themselves to impress others. If they engage in substance use, their judgment may be impaired, and they might struggle to recognize the difference between right and wrong. The consequences of untreated mania can include damaging or losing relationships, jeopardizing one’s employment or housing opportunities, or even legal troubles.
How To Treat Lying In Bipolar Disorder
If you think you might have bipolar disorder or struggle with lying or other impulsive behaviors, one of the most important actions you can take is to reach out to a licensed mental health professional, such as a therapist. A therapist is trained in treating these and other symptoms, and they can help you understand and manage your behaviors within a nonjudgmental environment. A therapist can help you develop healthy coping skills for the future, as well as address any feelings of anxiety or depression that may arise through confronting your behaviors and past actions. Remember that bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects millions of people every year; if you have bipolar disorder, you didn’t do anything to “cause” it, and having a mood disorder is not your fault.
The most important thing is to seek help. Most situations can be improved through understanding, and if you have experienced negative consequences from lying or impulsive behaviors during mania, addressing the root of those problematic behaviors will help you to reconcile with others. Even if a relationship is damaged beyond repair from behaviors that occurred during a manic episode, working with a therapist can help you to gain greater control to avoid similar behaviors in the future. Therapy can also help you to understand what might spark your manic or depressive episodes, allowing you to better prepare for and recognize them when they arise.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Several types of mental health treatment are effective in treating bipolar disorder. One of the most common is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is usually conducted in one-on-one sessions with a therapist. In CBT, a person is guided to confront negative thoughts about themselves and reframe them. CBT gives people a place to talk about what they're going through, establish coping strategies with their therapist, work through cognitive distortions, and increase their ability to navigate their feelings.
If you pursue CBT, a therapist might ask you to participate in keeping thought records and recognizing cognitive distortions, such as black-and-white thinking that reduces situations or people to "all good" or "all bad" designations. CBT helps you to identify and adjust these ways of thinking in order to clarify your thoughts and actions; with a therapist’s guidance, CBT can help you manage your behaviors over time.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is another popular line of treatment for many mental health issues. DBT was originally developed for people with borderline personality disorder, who had been historically marked as treatment-resistant. When mental health professionals began implementing DBT, they realized that it was also effective for people with bipolar disorder and other conditions. DBT focuses on four different areas of life: interpersonal skills, emotional regulation, distress tolerance, and mindfulness. A bipolar person may resent the fact that they have a mental illness, but by employing the concept of radical acceptance taught by DBT, they can cope with symptoms and learn to engage in positive behaviors and thought processes.
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but CBT, DBT, and other forms of mental health treatment can make a world of difference in helping individuals who have this mental health disorder live more fulfilling, healthier lives.
What If I Notice These Patterns In My Child Or Teen?
If a child in your life is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you might observe behaviors that are in line with cycles of mania and depression. Unfortunately, mania may include lying or other potentially harmful behaviors. Keep in mind that most adolescents occasionally engage in lying or negative, impulsive behaviors, and these behaviors alone do not indicate that a child or teen has bipolar disorder. However, if you notice these behaviors in your child, regardless of any mental health diagnosis, do your best to confront them in a non-accusatory way. Affirm that you love them no matter what, ask open-ended questions about why they felt the need to lie or hide the truth, and encourage them to share their feelings. If possible, arrange for them to work with a counselor or therapist.
Getting Help for Bipolar Disorder and Knowing Right from Wrong
If you have bipolar disorder and are struggling with lying or other impulsive behaviors, please know that you are not alone, and help is available to support you in making positive changes. According to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, the treatment success rate for bipolar disorder may be as high as 80 percent. Whether you have received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, suspect that you may have this condition, or are experiencing behaviors and thoughts that disrupt your life, a licensed therapist can provide you with resources, strategies, and support to gain greater control over your life. Online therapy services, such as those available through BetterHelp, make these changes more accessible than ever.
Online therapy through BetterHelp can support you through the highs and lows of bipolar disorder. If you are experiencing difficulty with impulse control and managing a schedule, the flexibility of online therapy allows you to work with a skilled counselor via any device with internet access; you won’t need to worry about attending an in-person appointment across town. You can also maintain greater privacy as you work with a mental health professional from the comfort of your own home, without judgment or stigma. The counselors at BetterHelp are ready to assist you in managing your emotions and behaviors so that you can maintain better relationships and greater control of your life. Here are counselor reviews from other BetterHelp users who have found emotional and behavioral support for similar issues.
Holly is a great person to work with. She has helped me in many ways to make myself a better person. Also how to work on myself to be that better person. We made goals every week to accomplish. Then talked over those goals how they affected me and others. Very caring, kind, listens to you, and very helpful in anything I needed from her. Highly recommended
Dr. Dunlap is a wonderfully down-to-earth counselor. I joined betterhelp.com looking for a highly analytic and well-versed counselor who would understand that perhaps I myself know "too much" about therapy myself. However, I got the best of both worlds! Dr. Dunlap not only pushes me to talk about my thoughts and feelings without using psychological terms as fallbacks, but she is also a super well-rounded person who connects with me. A+ experience with Dr. Dunlap after nearly half a year. (:
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