This is an interesting question: how does a person with bipolar disorder think? Of course, it’s hard for me to compare it with your average person as I have bipolar. I don’t have the two thought processes in my one brain to compare.
Nevertheless, I do have some ideas on how people with bipolar disorder think that seem to stand out amongst the “normals.”
Obsessive Bipolar Thoughts
Your average person may have obsessive thoughts, now and then, I don’t know, but what I do know is that people with bipolar disorder have obsessive thoughts a lot of the time. These obsessive bipolar thoughts may be a repeating song from the radio, scenarios (such as a suicide scene) or a replaying of events (often negative ones) but obsessive thoughts seem to be the rule rather than the exception.
Note that research bears this out indicating that people with bipolar disorder have higher rates of obsessive-compulsive disorder than the average population.
Extreme Bipolar Thoughts
It seems to me that simply by the virtue of extreme emotional experience, people with bipolar disorder think in the extreme quite frequently. Everything feels like the end of the world (catastrophizing). We’re not upset, we’re depressed. We’re not suspicious, we’re paranoid. We’re not happy, we’re elated. And of course there are all the thoughts that go along with these things. If our boyfriend looks at another girl he must be cheating. If we have a disagreement with a friend they must hate use. If we’re criticized at work we must be getting fired. It’s not that we don’t necessarily understand these things aren’t reasonable; it’s just that we can’t help the way our brain thinks, the way it leaps.
Not everyone jumps to the extremes, but people with bipolar seem to have that tendency.
Anxious Bipolar Thoughts
Of course, because people with bipolar have jumped to the extremes – usually negative ones – we sure the heck worry about it once we get there. Worried and anxious bipolar thoughts are very common and what’s worse is that seeing as we also obsess, we tend to obsessively worry or feel obsessively anxious.
Distracted Bipolar Thoughts
And then there are all the distracted-, multi-tasking-type thoughts. People with bipolar disorder have higher rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and regardless as to whether you have ADHD, people with bipolar disorder tend to think in ADHD-type ways. We tend to multi-task compulsively. We tend to get distracted. We tend to run away with our thoughts.
Overreaction to Bipolar Thoughts
It’s not very surprising that due to all these odd thoughts, due to all the extreme, obsessive and distracting thoughts that we overreact to situations. If your brain automatically goes to a catastrophe situation and then becomes obsessed with it, it’s really tough to have a moderate response – even when it’s a moderate situation.
I’m sure this frustrates the people around us to no end, but I have to say, it frustrates me considerably more.
People with bipolar disorder are constantly trying to figure out what a “normal” and “reasonable” thought process and reaction would be in any given situation. We’re constantly trying to overcome how our bipolar brain naturally thinks in order to have healthy interactions and healthy relationships. We’re constantly trying to deal with the extremeness of our thoughts internally so we don’t thrust them on the external world.
And this is beyond difficult. Trying to defeat the way a bipolar brain thinks is near-on impossible. Dealing with bipolar thoughts is a full-time gig and an exhausting one at that. But it is important. Because if we don’t moderate our own thoughts and deal with them appropriately, we can’t hope to have healthy relationships with others. And if that happens then all those pesky catastrophes we worried needlessly about will have come true.