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I'm curious what the experience of others has been over time.  Does this sort of illness get better or worse?  I have noticed that I haven't had any euphoric mania in 15 years, instead I have ahedonia and depression in the fall and winter and mixed states with anxiety in the summer.  I was euphoric in my 20's and now its just negativity in varying levels of energy.  I question the bipolar diagnosis because I am never euphoric anymore.  Happiness went right out the window about 15 years ago and it's stayed gone.  Is this normal?   I appear more functional than I used to, mostly because I've become better at hiding my illness.  So I'm less wild and crazy, yet I feel worse most of the time.  I'm now in my mid-40's.  What has been others' experience as they age?

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Posted (edited)

I am 28, but I've noticed that my illness has changed too. Now, I'm not sure if this is just because unknowing doctors kept on putting me on antidepressants in the past that caused mania -- but I haven't had a euphoric mania in a long while. In my teens to mid-twenties, they were the only manias I had (for the most part). I got my first mixed state at 25 and now am dealing more with depression and mixed states. Not sure how the disease evolves for others. 

Edited by saoirse

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I was diagnosed bipolar in my 50s although someone should have caught on years sooner. My depression was bad for years and years but I did at times have what were in retrospect hypomanic and mixed episodes. I think those got worse when they occurred but it’s hard to judge in retrospect. Now I don’t have much trouble with depression, for the first time since childhood. Go figure. But I don’t know that my situation is very helpful because I had no idea what was going on for years and now I’m working with completely different types of meds. Hindsight isn’t always accurate and I’m trying to make sense of my past given a diagnosis that was late to the party. But in general I got worse with age until starting on better meds. 

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I am similar to the OP.  Started out depressed in my childhood to early twenties.  Then turned into severe mania untreated for years.  Got into a lot of trouble during those years.  Then progressed into more of a psychosis. 

Now I struggle mostly with depression, paranoia and energy.  I don't get much enjoyment out of life except for the high I get from cycling.  Wish I could bottle that feeling into an extended release form.

Winter and spring suck balls as I am severely depressed.  Haven't been able to enjoy that time of the year in a long time. 

I have kinda given up on a "normal" life.  Have to accept I will be on meds for the rest of my days.  Dont think I will ever have the opportunity to get married or have kids.  Oh well... maybe in another dimension I will be well... 

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I'm not exactly bipolar, strictly speaking, just SZA, but I would call it degenerative if untreated. If only I'd gone to a doctor when it started rather than stewing in denial, I might be far better off today. I don't think it's unforgivable to spend a long time in denial though. Never blame yourself. No one can face up to mental illness immediately, especially not manic depressive or psychotic illnesses. I've definitely slid downhill since the old days but I think if it's treated quickly enough you've got a chance.

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On 7/12/2018 at 10:17 PM, quietly bonkers said:

I'm curious what the experience of others has been over time.  Does this sort of illness get better or worse?  I have noticed that I haven't had any euphoric mania in 15 years, instead I have ahedonia and depression in the fall and winter and mixed states with anxiety in the summer.  I was euphoric in my 20's and now its just negativity in varying levels of energy.  I question the bipolar diagnosis because I am never euphoric anymore.  Happiness went right out the window about 15 years ago and it's stayed gone.  Is this normal?   I appear more functional than I used to, mostly because I've become better at hiding my illness.  So I'm less wild and crazy, yet I feel worse most of the time.  I'm now in my mid-40's.  What has been others' experience as they age?

For better or worse my pdoc tells me reducing the highs is easier than the lows. (in my case, i'm BPii and a low baseline.) I have found reducing the highs to be true and in its place I'm experiencing exactly your negativity and varying levels of energy. There have been periods where I absolutely questioned the diagnosis but after so many years I realize and accept that i have BPii and not major depressive disorder. I am however opposite of you in hiding the bipolar. I was very good at it but as I get older I get weaker or don't give a shit as much, who knows.  I thought the diagnosis was degenerative but my pdoc said not necessarily. With the right balance of meds and lifestyle it isn't degenerative. But the illness is so complex and opinions so varied, who knows. And the research articles (if they really mean anything) conclude that we have a much shorter life span than non BP individuals.

But to directly answer your question, it has gotten more difficult to deal. There is no benefit of 'experience' in dealing with issues. If anything, it might be worse because i've experienced so many episodes I know how bad and ugly it will get and the awareness i might not make it through the pain. When i was younger, i fought it more and didn't realize it is always with us, and it is always in control. It isn't a 'separate' part of me. That will offend many people, but it rules our minds even when we think we're fine.  

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Regarding the OP, I really want to point out that mania or hypomania isn't always euphoric. It can look like and be experienced as restlessness, anxiety, irritability, distractibility... I wouldn't question the diagnosis based on not having those high states anymore, and especially not if you're medicated.

Take everything else I say with a grain of salt.

I have read that with time, people tend more towards depressive episodes, and perhaps spend more time symptomatic.

The simple truth is that the course of any mood disorder is not set.

It's generally known that "the more episodes" a person has, the more likely they are to have more, and the worse they're likely to be. And in general, the course of Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II vs. Ultra Rapid Cycling Bipolar will look different. The latter is harder to treat, and obviously there are more episodes, etc. People with Bipolar II also generally have more episodes than those with Bipolar I.

So the crucial thing is probably finding a really adequate treatment as soon as possible, which is definitely not easy. Then, if that treatment starts to falter, aggressively working to fix that.

Now, I'm saying this as someone who's basically been in an episode of depression for close to five years, with some brief moments of normal functioning, and some subthreshold hypomania or mixed states... And I've been trying different drug combinations the entire time, with ECT thrown in. Maybe the most important thing for a prognosis is the luck you have in getting diagnosed early and finding a working treatment quickly. I'm 35, been symptomatic since I was 11, and was diagnosed when I was 28, after a decade of having antidepressants and stimulants thrown at me for either depression or the ADHD that I never had.

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Depression seems to be becoming less responsive to treatment.  Anxiety seems worse too.  I have experienced some cognitive impairment and exhaustion, possibly due to long term benzodiazepine use.  I'm trying to wean off Ativan now.  Cognition seems better, initially, but the anxiety is worse.  I think it's time to change my cocktail again.  Maybe I'll try Seroquel next.  I've read good things from my fellow GAD-sufferers on CB.  I've gained weight recently, but nothing is worse than depression... maybe a panic attack.

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I run hypomanic. I had a depressive episode this summer that was my first real one in a few years. I can tip into mania if my life becomes unbalanced, so I have to watch that..

I have noticed that each swing is worse.

Depression is getting harder to treat than mania.

Cognitive function is getting worse (but I also had a TBI).

My pdoc, who I like, but tends to be morbid, albeit pragmatic, says I have an increased chance of getting dementia.

So...yeah. I guess it gets worse if you look at that point of view.

But, as I am older, is easier, in a way, because I am more willing to keep a routine, stay on my meds, don't do stupid shit, etc. etc., so, in that way, I guess it's better.

Still sucks, overall, though.

 

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I had periods of serious depression in high school and college, but most of the time I was normal.  Then I didn't experience depression for 12 years.  Then I got depressed one day out of nowhere and within 8 weeks had planned my suicide and was hearing voices in my head trying to trick me into killing myself.  Luckily I got professional help this time (I had never been treated before).  In the two years since I've cycled between depression, hypomania, and normal.  I think I've been hypomanic in years past but just didn't know it.

I don't know if my case is unusual or just goes to show that there really isn't a common pattern to all this.  My pdoc did say that for bipolar it's very rare for it to manifest at my age (almost 40).  That's one reason I believe I probably had symptoms long ago (also my wife says looking back she remembers times I was probably hypomanic).  I asked him if there is a chance my BPII could progress to BPI and he said it would be highly unlikely at my age.  I have done research and there are cases of late-onset MI, but it's not common.  I think symptoms will get worse with age if we don't get and stay on proper treatment.  But that's no guarantee.

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This is hard to answer. I was diagnosed as bipolar when I was 28, after more than a decade of what were obvious manic to depressed episodes, with periods of functionality in between. Then I spent several years over- and incorrectly medicated. Then I had a period of remission. Then I had some mixed episodes, and in 2016 I had a serious manic episode. 

I feel as if I have better tools (meds, insight, practice) to help me manage my disorder, but it’s nearly impossible for me to say if the illness itself has gotten better or worse.

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