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Bipolar Disorder – Can You Tell?

This post was written by David Oliver on February 23, 2011
Posted Under: Uncategorized


I was thinking about something today. I have several people who work for me who have

bipolar disorder, and I always brag on them… You know, about how you would never know that they have the disorder, unless they told you, things like that.

Of course, I live in New Jersey, and they live in other places, all over the map. But I was wondering about what they look like in person. I mean, not their looks, but whether in person, whether you could or couldn’t tell that they have bipolar disorder.

So that made me think about you and your loved ones. If there’s almost 6 million people with bipolar disorder, chances are that you know more than just your loved one with the disorder. Can you tell or can you NOT tell just by looking, if someone has bipolar disorder or not?

Interesting question, don’t you think?

See, what made me think about it, too, was the many emails I’ve gotten from people like

you, asking me about whether “it” is the bipolar or the loved one, and about whether they are “faking” it or not. That’s been a real big issue, according to the emails and calls I’ve gotten.

So I give it to you. What do you think? What has been your experience? Can you tell just by looking, if your loved one has bipolar disorder or not? If so, what is it about their behavior that gives them away?

For those of you who can’t tell, what is it about your loved one’s behavior that is different, that doesn’t give them away?

I talk a lot about what makes a person high-functioning. This is what I think, at least by what the people who work for me are concerned, is what makes them different.

High-functioning behavior can make a person with bipolar disorder NOT stand out as someone with the disorder. Does that make sense?

Whereas, on the other hand, someone who has bipolar disorder, but is NOT high functioning, would be someone who you can tell DOES have bipolar disorder.

I have seen this firsthand – in the people who work for me, those I have interviewed for my courses, those who I have talked to at the support groups I attend, and others I have heard from via email and phone.

Being high functioning also has to do with how stable someone is. I think stability is another key factor in whether you can tell if a person has bipolar disorder or whether

you can’t tell that they have the disorder. See, the more stable someone is, the more things they can do, and the more independently they can do them. People who are stable don’t draw attention to themselves, either.

They are productive, active members of the community and/or work force. And, like I was saying, they don’t stand out. I mean, they don’t stand out as being any different

than anyone else. Except maybe in positive ways:

For example, they may be more creative or more talented. Or they may be better problem-solvers. Or they may think outside the box.

People who act like they have bipolar disorder are people who you can tell have the disorder. These people are more unstable. They are just the opposite of the people I just


They usually show their emotions on their face, which is sometimes not so good, especially if those emotions are depression or anger. Many of them, in their instability, are easily provoked, fly off the handle easily, are short-tempered, easily upset, easily stressed, and the like.

They can’t hold down a job for very long, because they can’t handle the stress. They have a problem with absenteeism, because many times they can’t even get out of bed or groom themselves to go to work.

Instability is a key word when you’re talking about the people who you can tell have bipolar disorder, I think.

While stability is a key word when you’re talking about people who you cannot tell have bipolar disorder.

Your Friend,


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