NPD mood cycles can mimic Bipolar disorder.

comedy_tragedy

I remembered something about my NPD ex tonight. He used to have mood swings that seemed in many ways reminiscent of Bipolar disorder. It was only later I realized what they really were–cycles of of grandiose entitlement and dejected self-pity. Whenever supply was abundant–such as when he was promoted at work–he became puffed up with pride and this resulted in an attitude of entitlement and grandiosity which he lorded over his subjects, namely me. He also seemed somewhat manic when he was in one of these grandiose phases.  These were the times he was the most likely to become overtly abusive, both emotionally and physically. Instead of being happy the way a normal person might when thingsa are going well for them, my ex became hostile and prone to pick fights. I learned to dread the times in which good things happened to him, because that was when his narcissism seemed to go into overdrive.

When his supply was running low, he sank into deep depressions, in which he lost all his motivation and energy and spent most of his time staring dejectedly into space or sleeping (or pacing the house frantically at night). His “manic” behavior disappeared and he talked very little when he talked at all. When he did speak, it was to moan endlessly about how terrible his life was and how everyone had it in for him (nothing was ever his fault, and he was still assigning himself Center of the Universe status).  He acted helpless and needy, and wallowed in self pity like a pig in mud. He sometimes threatened suicide (but never attempted it–narcissists generally don’t). As annoying as his depressed moods were, I preferred him that way because he was less overtly abusive (though still abusive in a covert, manipulative way). He acted a lot “crazier” in his depressive states and suffered terrible panic attacks on a regular basis. This actually fits with an NPD diagnosis: when a narcissist isn’t getting any supply and their victims aren’t cooperating, they begin to feel like they don’t exist, and can become very depressed and dissociated. The dissociation can lead to severe panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.

The terms “covert narcissism” and “overt narcissism” aren’t mutually exclusive. A covert narcissist (the depressed, “fragile” type) will usually become more overt (grandiose) when supply is high. A grandiose (overt) type will sink to a more covert form of narcissism when supply is low. The two types of narcissism are really just two halves of the same personality disorder. Grandiose narcissists are thought of as being high achievers, but that may be because since they get more positive supply to begin with, they have more reason to act grandiose.

Before I put two and two together and realized my ex’s bizarre mood swings were in direct proportion to how much praise and recognition from others he was getting, I was sure he had Bipolar disorder. Unlike most narcissists, he did see a psychiatrist (mainly to get meds for his depressions and anxiety; there was little to no desire on his part to improve himself), who actually gave my ex a Bipolar diagnosis.

The most common type of Bipolar disorder is what used to be called Manic Depression. During a manic phase, the patient is likely to be extremely hyper, grandiose, testy, and quick to anger. They have an unrealistic sense of their own invincibility that doesn’t line up with reality. This is very similar to the grandiose phase of someone with NPD.

The covert (depressed) phase of NPD can look extremely similar to the depressive phase of Bipolar disorder. The main difference is, a narcissist will generally not follow through on suicide threats (because they are intended to manipulate and garner sympathy, a form of supply) while someone who is Bipolar is in grave danger of suicide. A bipolar patient can also be helped by medication, while there is no effective medication for NPD (although antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can help with some of the symptoms).

Further reading:

The Relationship Between Narcissism and Bipolar Disorder

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About luckyotter

Recovering from BPD and C-PTSD due to narcissistic abuse from childhood. Married to a sociopath for 20 years. Proud INFJ, Enneagram type 4w5. Animal lover, music lover, cat mom, unapologetic geek, fan of the absurd, progressive Catholic, mom to 2, mental illness stigma activist, anti-Trumper. #RESISTANCE
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27 Responses to NPD mood cycles can mimic Bipolar disorder.

  1. PatchworkKat says:

    Thank you!!! Thank you SO MUCH for this post. It’s exactly what I’ve suspected for some time with a narc in my life, but because they have a bipolar diagnosis in leu of NPD I thought I was over reacting or projecting my own deep rooted fear of narcs and their abusive tactics. I’m glad I’m not the only one who can see the differences between the two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Even professionals have a hard time telling which is which. But theN will always be trying to get all the attention on themselves, one way or another.

      Liked by 1 person

      • PatchworkKat says:

        Yes, exactly. Plus the medications are always ineffective, the paranoia, and assumption that everything relates to them… I could go on. She is like the poster child for all of the negative traits of NPD. She had me fooled for a while with some clever manipulation, but as is always the case with narcs her true colors eventually came through when I didn’t “obey” or react as she thought I should.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. PatchworkKat says:

    Reblogged this on The Patchwork Diaries and commented:
    Interesting… something I’ve suspected for a while now. I wonder if there’s any official research to back up the theory? Aside from survivors experience anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John Fraser Findlay says:

    I’m printing this to read as I want to fully digest it away from the computer and distractions.
    But after a quick glance this sounds like my ex.Although she said she a had been diagnosed as bipolar, then the psych hospital withdrew that a few years later (never really understood the full story).
    I really thought she was BPD. But I think in the end more NPD. As you say you are BPD I just wondered what you thought of some theories that say the two are closely related? And maybe less importantly: that men are more NPD, women express it as BPD.
    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      I think the boundaries between NPD and BPD can be very fuzzy since there’s a lot of crossover. But BPD’s aren’t trying to get supply. They’re also a lot more likely to blame themselves when things go wrong which is why they’re more treatable than Ns. But yeah, borderlines have unstable moods too that can also mimic bipolar disorder. That’s because they never learned how to regulate their emotions. I do think BPD is more often assigned to women and NPD to men. Some people think BPD is just the more feminized form of NPD, but I disagree with that. I think HPD is really the feminized form of NPD. In my opinion, anyway.

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      • John Fraser Findlay says:

        Ok that explanation is great.
        I also see where I was confused
        About NPD verus Bipolar.
        As she often referred to her “depression” as a chemical/biological family inherited trait I believed it was quite treatable.She might have thought this too.But my gut/soul was telling me something else.That she really did blame/shame the world for her moods.
        So it “felt” psyco-emotional.Because she never did swing back to a position of empathy or easily loving.Her paranoia and need for supply and rages
        were not helped by medication.
        As you described her lows and highs seemed to reflect how much or little supply she was getting. I took a very time consuming job to supplement my freelance work so I was not around to supply her.This was when things got worse. And looking back my absences wete usually a cause for depression and suicidal threats.I do think you are really on to something here. Thanks.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. bp7o9 says:

    Every single time you post about NPD, I say yes, yes, yes. That’s my sister in a nutshell. Goddess! How I hate her! My only comfort is that I know she’s miserable underneath her nail polish and expensive clothes. I know she’s ripping her current marriage apart with her NPD. I still wish something horrible would happen to her, really horrible. A long, slow, extremely painful death would work…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Susan says:

    my ex,classic narc ,was diagnosed with bi polar. rarely is NPD given as a diagnosis.
    they gave him Risperdal…

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      did the Risperdal work at all? He could be both. But you’re right. NPD is hardly ever given as a diagnosis to non-criminals because insurance won’t cover it (most won’t cover any Cluster B diagnosis)
      Usually a cluster B is given a PTSD diagnosis but bipolar is common too.

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      • Susan says:

        the Risperdal did not work,it seemed to make him worse. he started to act out in public! rage and try to break things…such as a public restroom door or a grocery store shopping cart…his mood swings were worse and he also was turning into an alcoholic at the time. and youre not supposed to drink with Risperdal. I felt more like a caretaker than his partner.
        Zoloft seemed to make him angry.
        as well.
        but he always rebelled against any kind of happiness though of any kind.
        he would sleep a lot.
        long naps in the daytime.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my goodness, Lucky Lauren, I just read a fascinating article written by a psychiatrist, which — if her observations catch on with the medical establishment as a whole — could turn the concept of mental illness, its causes and most effective treatments, on its head.

    I know you are going to want to read it. I’m looking forward to reading your opinion on this:
    http://paradigmchange.me/wp/fire/

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Excellent blog post! I love your take on this but am reading that others are seeing this too. I never did. But Wow! Narcissism and Bipolar really could be the same? This is an entirely new perspective for me. I still think the most important difference between the illnesses is that one is generally harmless to others, while the other, is or has great potential to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      No, not the same. They are completely different. Bipolar has more to do with biology and brain chemistry and is usually treated successfully with medication. NPD is caused by a lack of mirroring by caregivers as a child and there is no way to medicate it, really. But the symptoms (mood swings) can look so similar that it can sometimes be hard to tell a Bipolar person from a NPD one. I’m glad you liked the post!

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  8. Ok thanks for the clarification on that. I’m getting this slowly. There are ways to differentiate then. Lack of mirroring…I remember a time when I was donating blood, I was probably close to being underweight for it, the technician kept on yelling at me to relax(because my vein was collapsing), and she appeared angry. I was made afraid by that. And she just kept on saying that, repeating herself, and looking angry at me. I imagine I looked frightened by this technician. Who wasn’t mirroring properly there? And was the technician projecting? I’m really trying to get this concept down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Projection is when someone projects something THEY do or a feeling THEY have onto you, because they can’t own it. For example, your husband tells you you’re always angry but you know you’re not (but he sure does sound angry saying it!) Or he tells you you have no friends but really he’s the one with no friends. My ex always used to tell me how narcissistic I was, but he was the real narcissist in the relationship (though, to be fair, I definitely have N traits–but most people do, I think)
      The technician may not have been a narc or projecting, just having a really bad day and taking it out on you. No, it’s not fair of him, but it isn’t really projection. Of course, he could have been yelling at you to “Relax” because HE was the one who needed to relax–and THAT would be a form of projection.
      As for mirroring…what that means is empathetic understanding, like the kind given by a parent to a child.

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  10. Sounds like my abusive ex

    Liked by 1 person

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