Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder

For decades, the mood disorder that leads to unusually high highs and catastrophically low lows was popularly known as manic depression. This descriptive name denotes the tendency of sufferers to experience bouts of mania followed by periods of depression, but the American Psychiatric Association formally calls the disorder bipolar disorder. Bipolar is further broken down into several sub-types based upon the frequency and intensity of manic and depressive episodes.

No matter what version of the disorder a patient experiences, though, proper treatment is key. Some patients with bipolar disorder mistakenly believe that they have depression or another mental health condition, but treatment for the wrong condition can make bipolar disorder worse. The hallmark of the disorder is at least two cycles during which a patient experiences a period of depression and a period of mania.

Depressive Symptoms

During the depressed phase of bipolar disorder, a patient experiences profound periods of depression. Depression caused by grief or trauma don’t count; instead, the depression must be internal and not better explained by another condition. For example, a woman who becomes sad after the death of her husband is experiencing a typical reaction, not symptoms of depression. Common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness or grief
  • Guilt, shame, or a sense of worthlessness
  • Sudden changes in sleeping habits, such as sleeping too much or insomnia
  • Changes in eating habits or weight
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • The inability to enjoy previously enjoyed activities
  • Feelings of anger
  • Indecisiveness or distractability
  • Relationship problems
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Difficulty controlling one’s own emotions; unable to stop thinking negative thoughts
  • Preoccupation with perceived failings
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty caring about oneself or others
  • Feeling disconnected from the world or one’s own emotions

Manic Symptoms

Mania comes in several forms. The most pronounce varieties of mania are hard to miss, but some people with bipolar disorder experience a hypo-manic episode – a period of time during which only minor symptoms of mania are present. Symptoms of mania include:

  • Increased energy and talkativeness
  • Feelings of indestructibility
  • Exhilaration
  • Impulsive decision-making, such as excessive spending or drug use
  • Insomnia
  • Excessive eating
  • Feelings of grandiosity or inflated self-worth
  • An increase in goal-directed activity, particularly to the extreme. For example, a writer experiencing a manic episode might write 50 pages in an evening
  • Excessive engagement in pleasurable activities such as sex, drinking, or shopping
  • Anger and aggression

If you think you might have bipolar disorder,  there is help and treatment available – including medication, therapy, and lifestyle remedies such as exercise and changing your diet. Some people with the disorder feel so much better under medical care that they think they’re cured and stop taking medication. But bipolar disorder is a disease that can be managed, not cured, so a diagnosis may mean you’ll need help managing your condition for the long-term.