Do I Have Bipolar Disorder? 8 Signs Of Bipolar Disorder

Updated September 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Bipolar Disorder is among the most common mood disorders, and is most often known for behavior that may mimic moodiness. Far from being a simple example of moodiness, though, people with Bipolar Disorder exhibit a complex, varied series of symptoms, each of them required to secure a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. These symptoms must be present in order to receive a diagnosis, and they must interfere with daily living in order to warrant a diagnosis of a mental health condition or disorder.

Are You Wondering If You Might Have Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is the umbrella term used to describe three mood disorders that operate under the same basic signs and symptoms, with a varying degree of severity. Bipolar Disorder is not to be confused with Borderline Personality Disorder, though the two are often mistaken for one another; while BPD is characterized by a wide and inconsistent variation in moods, and is often rooted in trauma and childhood, Bipolar Disorder frequently has a genetic component involved, and is more frequently marked by specific types of moods. In essence, Bipolar Disorder’s so-called “moodiness” is comprised of mania and depression over a longer period of time, rather than a wide range of erratic emotions spaced out unevenly and over the short-term.What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder has a genetic and biological component that may or may not be present in other disorders, and is often rooted at least partially in an individual’s neurology, rather than existing primarily as an emotional or personality-based disorder. As such, Bipolar Disorder typically employs both psychotherapy and pharmaceutical interventions as treatment modalities, and may also enlist the help of other interventions, such as lifestyle interventions and support groups.

What Bipolar Disorder Is Not

Bipolar Disorder is not symptomatic of a personality disorder, an anxiety disorder, or simple moodiness. Although it has been used colloquially as a means of identifying someone’s tendency to run hot and cold, Bipolar Disorder is not usually recognized by family members and friends as moodiness or erratic behavior, but is instead visible to family members and friends by an individual’s predilection toward periods of extreme sadness or apathy, followed by periods of intense “highs,” which can include periods of not requiring food or sleep, speaking quickly, and an increased sense of focus or concentration.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are not a fortunate ability of the individual: manic episodes possess frenetic energy, not simply productive energy, and should not be regarded as positive aspects of the condition. Bipolar Disorder’s manic episodes have just as much propensity to cause damage or harm to people with Bipolar Disorder as depressive episodes do. Manic episodes are not periods of time in which an individual experiences sudden, healthy bursts of productivity, or fortunate episodes of inspiration; instead, manic episodes are periods in which the body’s natural mechanisms that promote health senses of boundaries, healthy impulses toward sleeping and eating, and healthy coping mechanisms are interrupted. In Bipolar Disorder I, manic episodes can actually require hospitalization, as they may lead to psychosis or other serious complications.

8 Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Suspecting that you have Bipolar Disorder can be a disconcerting proposition; any mental health condition that requires treatment can at first feel daunting, and can be difficult to consider. Fortunately, Bipolar Disorder is an extremely treatable disorder, and does not mean the end of life as you know it. What exactly are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder? The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are broken down into two different categories (with four subcategories each): manic episodes and depressive episodes.

Manic Episodes: 4 Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder Mania

manic episode in Bipolar Disorder is a period of time in which an individual experiences greatly heightened mood or elation. Manic episodes can last for a few days or a week, though days are the more common duration of mania. Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder mania include:

  • An increase in energy. Manic episodes are named for the energy that accompanies them, which is very near mania in nature. An increase in energy can manifest in several different ways, and can include simple energy increases (feeling more awake or energized), or hyper, out-of-control feelings, not unlike those produced by an adrenaline rush.
  • Decreased need or desire for sleep. In manic episodes, people often feel as though they do not need as much sleep as is typical. This decreased need can result in functioning at what seems to be an optimal level only a few hours of sleep, or can result in a complete avoidance of sleep. It should be noted that the more severe the disorder, the greater the likelihood of loss of sleep is, which can have its own health repercussions.
  • Impulsive behavior. Impulsive behavior may increase during manic episodes of Bipolar Disorder. Impulsive behavior is not necessarily always problematic, but can lead to dangerous behaviors, such as reckless spending, reckless sexual behaviors, criminal activity, and dangerous physical activity. Impulsive behavior can also include more minor instances of impulsivity, such as skipping school and impromptu calling out of work.
  • Racing thoughts, heart rate, and speech patterns. In manic episodes, people with Bipolar Disorder may feel as though their thoughts are constantly moving a million miles an hour, and are difficult to grasp or take hold of. An individual’s heart rate might be similarly elevated, and the combination of elevated heart and racing thoughts can lead to unusual speech patterns, such as speaking extremely quickly, jumping from topic to topic, or no longer making sense.

Depressive Episodes: 4 Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder Depression

Loss of interest in activities. Depression is often known for its ability to inspire apathy, which can mean a loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed. This loss of interest can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, and can make even getting dressed and eating difficult tasks. Apathy can also present some danger to individuals with Bipolar Disorder, as disruption of every day tasks can involve work, caring for dependents, and caring for oneself.A Bipolar Disorder depressive episode is the opposite of a manic episode, and is characterized by a prolonged period of sadness, despair, or apathy. Depressive episodes last longer than manic episodes, typically lasting between 1 to 3 weeks—though in Cyclothymic Disorder and Bipolar Disorder II, depressive episodes can last even longer. The symptoms of depressive episodes include:

  • Loss of energy/insomnia (but not a decreased need for sleep). Depression can result in an increased need for sleep, but a decreased ability to sleep. This can lead to a significant loss of energy, and difficulty remedying the loss of energy through adequate sleep.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt. People in the midst of a depressive episode might experience intense and overwhelming feelings of guilt or worthlessness, which can be further compounded by the presence of Bipolar Disorder symptoms; experiencing an inability to function in daily life can increase the feelings of worthlessness and guilt already associated with mental health disorders.
  • Extreme sadness, despair, or overwhelm. Bipolar Disorder’s depressive episodes can result in feelings of extreme sadness, despair, and overwhelm. Each of these can, in turn, intensify the other symptoms of the disorder.

Learning how to recognize, manage, and work through all eight of these symptoms is a pivotal part of Bipolar Disorder treatment, and consistent medication usage can aid in keeping depressive and manic symptoms suppressed or at bay. The treatment process is typically an ongoing work in progress, requiring adjustments over the long term, to create a treatment plan that is uniquely catered to each individual’s needs and wants.

Next Steps: Diagnosis and Treatment

Bipolar Disorder can certainly be suspected by people with the condition—or with similar symptoms—but it cannot be diagnosed without the help of a mental health professional. Reaching out to a professional is the first step in receiving a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, as a professional evaluation is essential to the development of an accurate diagnosis. Self-diagnosis can be helpful in suggesting the need for additional help, but should never take the place of a professional evaluation.

If the signs and symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are present, and a diagnosis is given, the next step is developing a treatment plan with the help of a mental health professional. Treatment plans for Bipolar Disorder usually involve a range of treatments, and usually include at least both psychotherapy sessions and some form of medication—most commonly an antidepressant. Because Bipolar Disorder is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood—earning it the name “Bipolar”—getting the correct dosage of medication is often a matter of trial and error, and should always be done under the close supervision of a qualified doctor.

Are You Wondering If You Might Have Bipolar Disorder?

The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder encompass far more than simple “moodiness,” and even go beyond feeling both manic and depressed at times. Bipolar Disorder is a serious mental health condition, and must be treated by a professional. It should not be diagnosed, treated, or otherwise acted upon without the supervision and assistance of a professional, and should not be left unattended and untreated. Whether treatment comes in the form of a local mental health authority, or in the form of online therapy, as is offered through sites like BetterHelp, treating Bipolar Disorder is necessary to manage Bipolar Disorder symptoms and effects.

Left untreated, Bipolar Disorder can worsen, and lead to periods of danger for both the individual and those around them; this happens in large part due to the possibility of psychosis developing in untreated periods of mania. Psychosis may result in feelings of paranoia, fear, and a distrust of oneself, which could lead to harming oneself or others. If you have begun exhibiting the symptoms listed above, or suspect another form of mental disorder or ill mental health, reach out to a mental health professional today for evaluation and treatment.

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