How the Bipolar or Depressed Worker Can Manage Mood Changes

November 8, 2010 Peter Zawistowski

What behaviors indicate a change in a depressed or bipolar worker's mood? One of the first changes that occurs to me is the inability to complete or finish a task. Nothing is more frustrating than a desk or an office filled with incomplete projects.

disorganized-woman-workerTypically, disorganization sets in and procrastination follows; creating more frustration. Sometimes, it seems that it never ends. And whether it is grandiose thinking as the cause or just a distracted thought process preventing any forward motion, not completing your work can become a serious problem.

Symptoms of Mania Can Equal Problems at Work

Rapid speech is another common symptom of bipolar disorder. This usually happens in the manic phase and is not seen in depression. Some individuals describe this speech pattern as “pressured.” Not allowing the other person to finish their sentence or phrase or talking over that person.

Another characteristic of the manic phase in bipolar disorder is jumping from topic to topic. Sometimes not even finishing one subject before starting another. Another manic behavior with serious consequences is inflated self-esteem; the all knowing, all seeing and all doing - meaning that nobody can solve this problem better, faster and cheaper than me. This period is when overspending and not worrying about the consequences occurs. This behavior does not conform to “normal” or typical behavior. This is the time to put the credit cards away and stash the checkbook. Major decisions should not made, whether they be about the health of the business, personal relationships or your health.

Dealing with the Inability to Complete Tasks

A simple method of reducing distractions can be the checklist. Breaking projects into tasks and then these tasks into smaller ones is an effective way of working; especially if you check off items as you complete them. There is a very simple, but gratifying moment, when you check an off item as complete.

Identify your sources of work chaos. It could be email, it can be Monday morning meetings or the filing of papers. Individuals are more engaged when they know their purpose. Work without purpose is a time waster. Find the purpose in your tasks, projects and work. Identify the rituals in your work. Rituals are acceptable if they do not create chaos or use up a great deal of time. Rituals such as end of day, tool or desk clean up are beneficial. The constant reorganization and refiling of papers are part of workplace chaos.

Our society places a high value on making money and our work. With depression or bipolar disorder, one can be made to feel like a failure. You can feel worthless and ashamed at your inability to work. You can feel terribly ashamed when in a manic or depressive phase, you realize you have spent thousands of dollars. If you have set up a safety net of family and friends, many dreadful behaviors can be eliminated or short-lived. Understand that you are not alone in working with this illness. Treat bipolar and depression first, have a healthy and stable life. Learn to manage your illness on a daily basis. Then comes stability in relationships and next will be stability and health in work.

APA Reference
Zawistowski, P. (2010, November 8). How the Bipolar or Depressed Worker Can Manage Mood Changes, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Peter Zawistowski

December, 21 2010 at 8:32 am

I'm struggling a lot with this right now and It may cause me to even lose my job. My wife recently just had her 2nd miscarriage of this year and the stress of everything going on is triggering me into my bipolar swings in mood. I am a Navy Veteran Diagnosed with Bipolar 1 since 2004 but probably had since 2000 and I take Lithium but I'm not sure if I'm taking it properly or its working for me..All I know is That I need to Find a Solution fats to managing my bipolar in a workplace setting. Currently i am a Admissions counselor for Heald College and The Stress of meeting the Numbers game are wearing me down.. I feel like a failure when I'm behind or not doing well with my performance expectations!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Peter Zawistowski
December, 21 2010 at 1:19 pm

Apologize in delaying my response. Remember that failure is an action not a person. No matter what goes on you are not a failure. Lithium takes awhile to work, sometimes even months for some people, please give it and you the time it needs. Working with bipolar is a tough job, especially if home life has it difficulties. Trying to reduce stress at work through relaxation or visualization responses (coming up in my next blog). These responses are a learned response, especially handy stressful work conditions. Best of luck.

Myra m
July, 13 2011 at 6:15 pm

Thank you for this writing. I work in a fear-based academic environment. I do not know how long I have left in this job. Sometimes, I think I do not know how long I have left in this world. I have been given undeserved responsibility. I see now that I didn't have the capacity to complete the demands. I am so ashamed and humiliated by this...everyone is witness to my incompetence. For two years I tried. I do not expect special treatment. I want to just go away somewhere...I have a 'chance' to get it all finished tomorrow...I try to be grateful and understand what a blessing it is to be back at work...but the scrutiny at work, being on life support w/bipolar 1, and now a significant other who is in active addiction...every possibility is around every corner, and it is all too much. It's just too much. I will try...I know my 'secret' disorder is starting to show through the seams...I try to stuff it back in and repair the spot...another one rips. I guess all anyone can do is try. Very tired.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Peter Zawistowski
July, 19 2011 at 11:37 am

Let's start with a few questions. Is your fear or is your "fear based academic environment" the actual situation? It is so difficult to determine by yourself whether a situation or thoughts about the situation are closer to the truth. Being able to speak to someone whether at work or home can help the thought process. Anxiety can be debilitating, undeserved responsibility can be the same thought. Maybe those around believe you are ready and deserving the obligation. See what the cost of success and failure for this responsibility, maybe it is worth trying out. As for your "secret disorder" I personally found that telling someone that I work with, is a great relief. Especially as a safety factor of having someone who understands.
I suggest that you give Kay Jamison's book An Unquiet Mind was a great help to me.

Sandra Cobban
August, 21 2015 at 1:07 pm

It sounds sensible.
But I'm still suffering from mania more than I should being rapid CYCLER.
Hate it,I mean just today got into got into a verbal fight with a jewelery shop clerk.
I also notice my voice become decibels louder during these times.
I emailed my sister as shed emailed me while I was out.
So,I ate my bagel I got from a shop took my aft med,turned everything OFF....fell asleep
For 3 hours.....feel calmer.
Generally I only remember flashes like a camera after these moments...& I did take all my meds
But 3 or 4 days slipped on something in the bathroom fell washed my hair have a bump size
of small egg on my egg" still hurt ,etc...
Very painful fall,was @ 3:00 am so was 1/2 asleep.
Anyway,I just feel like my life is best described as rollercoaster.
Dangerous one,at that.
The more I stay informed about re my disease,the more I relies its power.
That I've to be on top ( my routine,or as I prefer lifestyle habits)
That keep things more in check.
As referring to changing topics I've done that since very young
Reference to money: I gave all my credit cards (4) to be destroyed.
I pay only with cash,but I also since I'm naturally thin..but courtesy of the
Pharmaceutical industry gained about 60 at least pounds ...
Hate that!!
Still love clothes jewelery wtf supposed to do stay home & work?
Maybe get takeaway for fun?

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