Whether you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder or not, there are certain circumstances at work you should probably avoid. These circumstances are hard for anyone to manage their way through, but it seems particularly difficult for the bipolar diagnosed person. It can be difficult for someone diagnosed as bipolar to hold down a steady job, mostly given the unpredictable nature of his or her moods. As such, we at BPCA see careers that have been mired in long-term turmoil for many years.
Managing Your Emotions at Work
With bipolar disorder, the emotion itself can typically be justified. The emotion can be the same as anyone else would have. If something makes us sad, there is a good chance it would make anyone else sad. But it is usually the degree upon which our emotion is expressed which causes us trouble.
Managing our emotions at work is very important because at work we are usually with people who are less empathetic toward our mood swings than are our friends and family. While at work, we need to conform to a certain set of conducts and standards. It is usually the strength of our emotion that causes us work related problems because they may cause us to violate the company standards of behavior. This can cause us to unknowingly sabotage our careers.
What Types of Jobs to Avoid
While this may not be true for all people diagnosed bipolar, in our work at BPCA we see a consistent set of circumstances that negatively affect the bipolar individual at work. These are areas you may want to purposefully avoid.
1. Lack of Control
Individuals diagnosed bipolar in some ways have lived a more controlled and structured life than others. We learned over the years that being in control of our environment often soothes us. Predictability matters to us. We learned that being in control allows us to manage our triggers. A lack of control can lead to a sense of chaos, and that can be scary to us. Being in control allows us to do what we want, when we want, and how we want. Control allows us to work at a pace that is comfortable for us, and allows us to be organized. In our experience at BPCA, surprises at work are generally not received well. A lack of control is why many people diagnosed with bipolar choose the path of entrepreneurial work and/or freelance work.
2. Lack of Creativity
Some research has shown a strong link between bipolar and creativity. Not being able to express yourself – at your own pace and with your own style – can be frustrating. Being told what to do and how to do it can lead to depression and a sense of being unimportant in the “bigger” picture. Sometimes a sedentary office job can be torturous to a bipolar person, as it generally means interacting with other people and may mandate having to do so in a regimented and uncreative way. This combines a lack of creativity, a lack of flexibility, and being forced into social circumstances that may feel intimidating.
3. Lack of Understanding
Most people think everyone thinks just like they do. Bipolar individuals can think differently from others. Sometimes we are more creative, more introspective, have deeper thoughts, have more rapid thinking, etc. We also tend to be good learners. So, put yourself in a position that rewards your style of thinking. Use your bipolar mind as a strength. Realize, however, that others in your company may not understand how you think and that may lead to problems. Try to seek out “open minded” people to be around. These are people who value diverse perspectives, and understand sometimes “passion” can be confused with “anger”.
It is generally harder for bipolar people to interact with people on a consistent and regular basis. As such, it can be difficult for them to work in teams. We need to focus on improving our “team” skills if we are to be part of a team. This means understanding how to communicate in a way that may not feel natural to us, but fits well into the team model. Being aware of the value of other people’s ideas and thoughts, and learning to disagree agreeably with them, is something we can all work on. But it is especially important for the bipolar person as any company is really nothing more than one big team.
Each of the above circumstances will generally lead to frustration. When a bipolar individual feels frustrated, usually a trigger event is not far behind. Yelling at a co-worker, not showing up on time (if at all), being belligerent towards management, or feeling apathetic towards our work. All of these manifest themselves when we find ourselves in a work environment that isn’t right for us.
At BPCA, we see this pattern repeated time and time again. People haven’t figured out how to break out of the working environment that is not healthy for them.
So look to avoid the circumstances that lead to frustration. If you need other people to complete tasks in order for you to do your job, are being told how to do your job, and you have an unpredictable work schedule, you will probably experience frustration somewhere down the line.
Find the Best Environment to Ensure Success
Ask yourself, “Do I have control over my work, can I use my creativity to complete my tasks, and am I surrounded by understanding people?” If you can answer, “yes” to these, you are probably in a healthy work environment. So figure out what kind of work environment is best for you in managing your bipolar disorder, and then seek out that environment.
Bipolar Career Advisors (BPCA) is a full-time telephone and/or virtual career coaching and counseling services firm. We focus solely on the career coaching needs of the bipolar community. We offer one-on-one career coaching programs, group programs, self-paced packages, resume and LinkedIn profile writing, and guidance. We help our clients define their own brand and guide them in networking and negotiating skills. We work with our clients in preparing a long-term career plan that takes into account their specific bipolar needs.