Differences between Bipolar Disorder and Being a Empath
I used to be a psychiatric social worker, (now disabled) so I will address your question about Bipolar Disorder specifically from my training and point of view.
There are some very bad therapists out there, especially at the pill mills, where you cannot actually get any talk therapy now days. They'll gladly diagnose you in five minutes or less with whatever the latest expensive pill from Big Pharma is treating, just so they can win a free trip to the Bahamas or some other bribe. If you've encountered one of these, get another opinion please!
They have a relatively new diagnosis, called Bipolar Type II, which is almost indistinguishable from atypical depression aka agitated depression aka irritable depression, a much more common condition that affects 40% of all those with depression, in which irritability replaces apathy in an otherwise common presentation of depressive symptoms. There are no other symptoms of Bipolar Disorder or they are very mild, and IMO, may describe almost anyone. This again gives them the right to hand you some very expensive and dangerous anti-psychotic meds, when you may really need treatment for depression instead. If you've encountered this, please get a second opinion!
Having said all that, Bipolar Disorder Type I definitely exists and is a very serious psychosis. However, nobody with decent training would ever confuse it with being an empath. I will give you 3 examples of typical Bipolar manic behavior from actual patients I've had. Ask yourself if any of this sounds like an empath to you.....
1. This patient went into a manic episode and decided it would be fun to steal a car and drive it over 100 mph on the highway, in the wrong direction! She eventually went off the roads when the cops chased her. She gave no thought to the danger or consequences, as is typical during these episodes.
2. This patient told her husband she was expanding her business to another nearby town. She then went on the Internet and arranged hookups with many different men at motels in that other town about twice a week, until he finally got suspicious and followed her. Promiscuity is a very common manic symptom.
3. This patient was worshipped by his adoring wife. He died, and afterwards she found he had several secret credit cards with thousands of dollars in debts from paying for porn on the Internet. Big spending sprees are another common feature of mania for some, often including gambling, but in this case it was combined with the urge to be promiscuous.
I don't know any real empaths who behave this way. Causing others this kind of pain is something we empaths work hard to avoid. I hope this will help you sort this out.