Recognizing the Signs of Bipolar Disorder
The signs of bipolar disorder can vary, but are often a combination of extreme highs and extreme lows.
People with bipolar disorder can have a range of symptoms.
Many experience dramatic mood swings, going from emotional highs to emotional lows with more normal moods in between, while others have much milder changes in mood.
Mania is a term that describes an emotional “high,” one of the hallmark symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Mania, or a manic episode, is usually characterized by feelings of extreme energy, restlessness, or irritability.
In general, signs of a manic episode may include:
- High energy and excessive activity
- Overly good mood
- Irritability or impatience
- Fast, erratic talking
- Racing thoughts
- Inability to concentrate
- Little need for sleep
- Feelings of power
- Poor judgment
- Reckless spending
- High sex drive
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Refusal to admit that there is a problem
The severity of manic symptoms can vary in bipolar disorder, and most people will not experience all symptoms.
In some forms of bipolar disorder, people will experience hypomania, a milder form of mania that usually feels good. People who are experiencing hypomania often can function well and be more productive than usual.
But if left untreated, hypomania can develop into severe mania or can change to depression.
If your elevated or irritable mood is accompanied by manic symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one week, your doctor may diagnose a manic episode.
In bipolar disorder, manic episodes alternate with periods of emotional lows, which are known as depressive episodes.
Signs of a depressive episode may include:
- Sadness, anxiety, or a feeling of emptiness
- Feelings of guilt, feeling worthless, or feeling helpless
- Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, such as sex
- Low energy
- Trouble with concentration or memory
- Restlessness or irritability
- Excessive sleeping or insomnia
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Pain or other physical symptoms not explained by an illness or injury
- Thoughts of death, or suicidal thoughts or attempts
A diagnosis of depressive episodes is made if at least five of these symptoms are present for most of the day, nearly every day, for two weeks or longer.
Bipolar Mood Swings
Symptoms of mania and depression can vary dramatically among people with bipolar disorder.
All people with bipolar disorder experience mood swings, but the severity of these mood swings can vary.
In the form of bipolar disorder known as bipolar I, there are recurrent episodes of mania and depression.
In bipolar II, severe mania never develops, but periods of hypomania alternate with depressive episodes.
The severity and symptoms of bipolar disorder can change over time, and your bipolar disorder treatment may need to change as well.
If you are experiencing mood swings that are disrupting your life, speak with your doctor, who can recommend a mental health professional.
Mental health professionals can talk with you about your bipolar disorder symptoms, and diagnose and treat the condition if that’s necessary.
Medication and other therapies can help you manage the bipolar symptoms and smooth out the highs and lows that interfere with living a normal, productive life.