Question

Living With Bipolar Disorder

How can bipolar disorder affect performance at school or work?

A Answers (2)

  • ARuth White, MPH, Social Work, answered
    For those of us with bipolar disorder, work often gets disrupted as our lives and emotions get disrupted. You may or may not choose to disclose your bipolar disorder, but episodes play out in work contexts in ways that directly affect productivity. Losing a job is often the outcome of a prolonged episode of bipolar disorder, and this can have a negative impact on the ability to seek or maintain medical treatment.
  • ASheri Van Dijk, Psychiatry, answered
    If you have bipolar disorder and have experienced a depressive episode, you know the feeling of fatigue, being drained, and not having the energy or the motivation to do the things you need to do. Add this to the fact that depression can affect your ability to concentrate, solve problems, and make decisions, and it becomes quite obvious that going to school or work and performing up to your usual standards will be quite difficult when you're feeling depressed.

    Going to work or school in a manic episode is just as problematic. The first challenge is making it to work, since you're feeling great and thinking about how much of your energy and creativity will be wasted on menial tasks. Next, you'll face difficulties concentrating, and chances are you'll be unable to slow your thoughts down enough to complete any goal-oriented activity. In addition to these problems, there are the conflicts that often arise. For example, you may be more irritable, or maybe you're feeling so good about yourself (to the point of feeling better than others) that you find yourself interacting with others in a negative way, damaging relationships. Or you may be using substances, further limiting your ability to function at school or work. This is often noticed by teachers or employers and could result in you being suspended from school or losing your job. It's a fact that people with bipolar disorder receive less education and lower wages than those without the diagnosis, and that they use more sick time and rely more on disability pensions, including worker's compensation.
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