If you live with bipolar disorder, which is a mood disorder characterized by extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression), it’s only natural to experience some fears from time to time.
These fears can manifest in thoughts like, “Is this emotion ‘real’ or is it just a symptom of an episode?” or “People just tolerate me and will eventually leave me.” If you can relate, you’re not alone.
To let people know they aren’t the only ones having these fears, we turned to our Mighty community to share fears they have because of their bipolar disorder.
If these fears become overwhelming and disrupt your daily life, there is support available to you. To find a therapist in your area, we recommend this resource. You can also connect with folks who really understand by posting on The Mighty using the hashtag #BipolarDisorder. You don’t have to go through it alone.
Without further ado, here are the fears our bipolar community shared with us:
1. Fear of ‘Never Getting Better’
Although there is no “cure” for bipolar, you can learn to manage your symptoms and work with your mental health professionals to find treatment options that work best for you. By doing this, you may find yourself feeling more in control of your symptoms. It’s also important to recognize that progress is not linear, and just because you have a setback or a relapse, it doesn’t erase the progress you have made.
“That I’ll never get better. Whenever I’ve relapsed, it just puts me in a position where I feel like I thought I was doing everything right and I still failed.” — Nikita W.
“Relapse. I can never convince myself that I’m ‘just having a bad day,’ because what if it’s the start of a spiral, and being too excited is terrifying because what if I’m talking so fast and being so jumpy because mania is setting in? Is my irritability valid? Am I ever actually OK?” — Amber M.
Related: Why I Hate the Way Bipolar Mania Feels
2. Fear of Abandonment
It’s absolutely OK to fear being abandoned sometimes. You can combat this fear by “fact-checking” it. Ask yourself, “What concrete evidence do I have to support that I will be abandoned?” Checking the facts can help you de-escalate your anxious feelings.
“My biggest fear is when I start thinking I’m ‘replaceable’ by everyone in my life. I’m just kind of here and usually just a bother. I fear everything I think will make me happy will only just hurt me. So I lock myself in my room and stick my face in my laptop to do creative stuff. Graphic design, websites, video editing, story writing, etc.” — Shannon B.
“Every time someone close to me goes for a long period without talking to me or acts in a way that’s different from what they usually are like, I fear they’ve finally realized I’m unlovable and hard to deal with and have therefore decided to leave me. I thus end up breaking off friendships and relationships as a preemptive measure. They can’t leave me if they’re not in my life.” — Latifah N.
3. Fear of Losing Job
It can be tough managing difficult symptoms while not letting it affect your job performance. If you are able to work and experience this fear, you’re not alone. One thing you can do is try to talk to your supervisor or HR manager about accommodations.
“I fear never being able to keep a steady job. I have emotional episodes every time I get busy and panic! It’s awful!” — Stephenie W.
“I fear that employers will find other reasons not to hire me/to fire me after learning I have bipolar II. I combat this by carrying a letter of reference from my psychiatrist about my fitness for work and a list of my common symptoms and how I manage them that I provide on request.” — Shannon M.
“[I fear] I’m going to lose another job because I’m unable to keep things under control. I’ve had to take medical leave from two jobs because of my bipolar — one of those leaves cost me a teaching job. Obviously they can’t come right out and say it for legal reasons, but it was made clear to me that someone with mental health issues was not welcome there. Now I’m in a job I love and I’m scared to death something will go haywire again.” — Angela E.
4. Fear of Being Judged
If you fear being judged, particularly because of the stigma attached to having a mental illness, you’re not the only one. If you’re looking for a judgment-free zone, you can always post a Thought or Question on The Mighty using the hashtag #CheckInWithMe. Our community wants to support you.
“I’m terrified of judgment. That people are going to think I’m ‘insane’ because they don’t understand what bipolar is. To combat this, I surround myself with people who do understand and rely on the truth they tell me so I can walk confidently into the world.” — Crystal T.
“The stigma and judgment attached to the illness is what I fear the most because it’s not as common or understandable as anxiety or depression.” — Tara S.
5. Fear of Having a Severe Episode During Pregnancy
With pregnancy comes a lot of hormonal changes. If you have bipolar disorder and get pregnant, it’s important to discuss treatment options with your doctor. They may recommend seeing a perinatal psychiatrist — a psychiatrist who focuses on pregnancy, prenatal and postpartum conditions. Your doctor may also recommend changing your medication or ask you to chart your mood. Being open about your reproductive plans with your doctor will allow them to help you manage your symptoms and avoid a severe episode during pregnancy.
“I’m afraid that if I were to decide to become pregnant, I would end up in a severe episode and end up harming myself, or my child. I know there are people with pregnancy success stories who have bipolar disorder, but I feel like the severity of mine makes me feel unsafe with the reality.” — Harley A.
6. Fear of Dying by Suicide
Many people with bipolar disorder struggle with suicidal thoughts, and as a result, fear dying by suicide. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts — whether or not you think you might act on them — we encourage you to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting START to 741-741. They are available 24/7.
“That one of my depressive episodes will be the one that finally kills me. I have the veteran crisis line saved in my phone and on my refrigerator plus the numbers to my mental health team on speed dial.” — Elizabeth M.
“I have a fear of ending my life without a reason due to my depressive episodes. It’s really hard to combat my fear but well, I am slowly doing it by distracting with other things.” — Pamela B.
7. Fear That All Feelings Are Just an Episode
It’s important to remember just because you are having feelings — whether they are positive or negative — doesn’t automatically mean you’re having an episode. Being at baseline or feeling “normal” doesn’t equal the absence of feeling. Most humans are inherently emotional people and learning to recognize the difference between having feelings and having an episode is key.
“That the feelings I am feeling — doesn‘t matter whether they are good or bad — are not my real feelings, but only part of an episode. I am always asking myself, ‘Is it really like this or that or is it just in my mind?'” — Yvonne H.
“Anytime I start feeling good I’m worried I’m getting manic again.” — Sarah M.
8. Fear of Kids Getting Bipolar Disorder
When we have children, it’s only natural that we worry about what we will pass onto them. It’s important to remember that should your children have bipolar disorder, it’s not a death sentence, and you will be able to pass on what you’ve learned to them. You will be in a unique position to give them the help and support you may not have had yourself.
“I fear that I’ve passed the gene down to my kids. The thought of my oldest spending his adult life trying to get diagnosed keeps me up at night. I combat this by being open with all of my children. They know all about every genetic issue I have. That way when something starts going wrong, they already know they are not alone. It’ll also help them get diagnosed sooner because they know that the genetic link is there.” — Shayla F.
9. Fear of Addiction
Although addiction tends to be common among those living with bipolar disorder (some studies suggest about 56 percent of people with bipolar disorder will struggle with addiction at some point in their lives), it doesn’t automatically mean you will develop an addiction. All the same, it’s important to be self-aware and keep an eye out for any signs that you may be developing an addiction to something. If you are affected by addiction and need help, we encourage you to call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.
“I’m scared that I’m going to fall into addiction because people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more prone to addiction than others. Just being aware that you are prone to addiction and thinking about it helps you to be more aware of your actions.” — Lauren B.
If you live with any of these fears, you’re not alone. If they get to be “too much” to handle, we encourage you to talk to your mental health professionals about how to combat these fears. You can also reach out to our bipolar community here at The Mighty by making a post using the hashtag #BipolarDisorder. You don’t have to let these fears define who you are.
Check out the following stories to get support from your community:
- 15 ‘Small,’ but Significant, Lifestyle Changes That Help People With Bipolar Disorder
- 6 Ways I Maintain Balance in My Life With Bipolar Disorder
What do you fear as a person with bipolar disorder or another mental illness? Let us know in the comments below.