Q:  Could This be Bipolar Disorder

I feel i could have bi polar disorder. Im a 22 year old male.

I have trouble concentrating in school and as far as i can remember it's always been this way. I could read a paragraph and not comprehend one word cause my mind is constantly stuck on either the problem or interest in my life on hand...

Ithought at first i could have add.  I was put on adderall put it did the opposite effect (gave me tons of energy and I was on an extremely low dose 5mg)  .  I always day dream throughout the day. My family doctor believes that i have depression and anxiety.  He put me on zoloft... I've been taking it for approximately 5 weeks now and have been extremely sleepy and some days i feel giggly and happy but other days down and out.I'm at 50mg now and he's raising my dosage to 100mg next week.. From what i can remember throughout my past if i get "into" something for instance a sport like hockey all my attention will go towards that sport . In high school all i did was think about that and daydream ....After a few months of that it "would get old " and I would move onto another sport.  That still happens although its not with team sports now its with my truck or motorcycle.  I just barely passed high school...

My doctor told me that if i had bi polar i would know immediately from my reaction to zoloft. He said i would be in a constant "manic" state...I dont really know how that feels.  I've always been extremely irritable and anxious and if i'm not in a good mood i am not happy to be around.  My problem got worse when i quit smoking cold turkey after 5 years of smoking and a long term relationship with an ex-girlfriend went sour..   In my relationships with women after a certain amount of time i would get bored of the,i guess " same ole thing" and want to move on.  I also would always break up with ex girlfriends and then get back together with them later that day... I dont know why i would do this... I knew deep down i wasnt Really gonna break up with them..then. But I feel i did it for some sort of reassurance that they still liked me. I would sit there and watch her cry,then...Boom go ok im sorry and expect her to think thats it and everything is fine and back to normal  Which for me it was i guess, but not for her.  I would get a "reassurance" i guess you would say.  Thats the only logical explanation i can think of why i would do this.  The last relationship i knew was starting to feel old after a while again although i knew if i moved on I would regret it later if I did. It didn't matter cause she broke up with me anyway....LoL

I've also read that taking an anti depressant if the primary mental illness is bi polar disorder there can be some bad news and possibly make it worse..  Is this true?

My past family history wasn't the greatest... My parents are still together; although , my dad used to physically and verbally abuse my mom and I..I'm the older brother of two and from what i remember everything that happened was my fault no matter what.

My dad used to make us do yard work every weekend all day both days saturday and sunday (our only two days off school). My only social life with friends was after school m-f before he got home from work. He was very controlling, obsessive and very angry man.

I'm not sure if this is a cause of my problems but i feel it contributed a great deal.

He also has a problem himself . My mom and I feel he has lots of anxiety and maybe even add . He's contantly doing something. It's very hard to talk and have a conversation with him because he's always on the move. He's constantly cleaning either the house the yard everything you can think of and gets mad if there's things outta place to an extent. I don't think he's ever seen a full movie from beginning to end because he's always side tracked by something else.

He has lots of projects that have been started but not finished in some over 15 years..

From what i've been told he had a rough childhood also with an abusive alcoholic dad.

That's about all the background I can think of at this point I'm sure there's alot more though....

Is bi polar disorder something you can just get or is it genetic?  For instance can you just develop bi polar from previous expierence/encounters in my youth ?  If I do have it is it only treatable and thats it or after medication is it possible to be cured without relapse?

thanks for your time..

any help is greatly appreciated


Dear Daryl -- 
Your doc' is trying to help, but unfortunately he/she is wrong about the prediction that if you have bipolar disorder you'll get full manic symptoms on Zoloft.  At least he/she knew to tell you about bipolar disorder in some fashion, which is better than most primary care doc's are doing these days (I'm working on that in my "other job").  

So you're right to wonder about it and with the extent of symptoms that could (but are not necessarily) be "bipolar", you need some mental health type to help you.  You could start with a therapist if your doc' knows of one, but ask about psychiatrists too as your knowledge base now goes beyond that of your primary care doctor on this subject.  Read some more about bipolar II.  How this relates to ADD is tricky and controversial; but everybody seems to agree that if you have aspects of both, you'd want to start by treating the BP part first.  

Bottom line: hook up with someone who understands you.  If you dont' find such a person the first or second try, keep looking: people like you can benefit tremendously from treatment, both medications and other approaches.  Good on 'ya for asking, and wondering about it in the first place. 

Dr. Phelps

Published June, 2001