- Mood swings
- Manic Episodes
- Elevated mood, Euphoria
- Depression Episodes
- Sadness and Hopelessness
- Disorganized Behavior
- Weight Gain or Weight Loss
- Difficulty Falling Asleep or Excessive Sleepiness
- Racing Thoughts
- Risky Behavior
Manic v. Depressive Episodes
The defining characteristic of Bipolar Disorder is the occurrence of mood swings, from manic to depressive episodes.
Symptoms of a Manic Episode:
- Increased energy levels
- Feeling ecstatic or euphoric
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased speed of thoughts and speech
- Reckless behavior such as spending money or reckless sex
- Agitation or irritability
Symptoms of a Depressive Episode:
- Feeling sad, hopeless
- Lethargic, very little energy to expend
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Finding little joy in typically pleasurable activities
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in eating habits
- Thoughts of death or suicide
It is also possible to experience the symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously. The severity of symptoms can also vary, although 83% of diagnosed individuals with Bipolar Disorder have severe cases. Only a small portion of people who suffer from this disorder will have mild to moderate symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder Types
There are four main types of Bipolar Disorder that share similar symptoms but have varying degrees.
- Bipolar I Disorder— Manic episodes that last at least 7 days or severe Manic episodes that require admission to a hospital. Depressive episodes lasting at least 2 weeks or also usually present.
- Bipolar II Disorder— Oscillation between depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the severe Manic episodes that are experienced with Bipolar I.
- Cyclothymic Disorder— Also known as Cyclothymia, this type of disorder is characterized by many periods of hypomanic symptoms as well many periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years.
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— Bipolar disorder symptoms that vary from the three categories listed above.
Depression disorders such as Manic Depression or Major Depressive Disorder can co-exist or contribute to the onset of Bipolar Disorder. It is important to understand the relationship between these illnesses. Research has shown that 20% of adults suffering from a Depression Disorder will develop Bipolar Disorder within 5 years of the onset of depressive symptoms. Additionally, as many as one in five patients suffering from Bipolar Disorder will commit suicide. Bipolar Disorder is a serious disorder that can adversely affect an individual’s life if left untreated. The sooner an individual receives treatment, the better their condition will be.
Psychosis: Occasionally people with Bipolar Disorder may experience psychotic episodes which are not to be confused with manic episodes. Psychotic symptoms include hallucinations or delusions. If someone with Bipolar Disorder experiences psychotic symptoms, they can sometimes be misdiagnosed with Schizophrenia.
Anxiety and ADHD: People with Bipolar Disorder often have a co-occurring illness such as an Anxiety Disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Substance Abuse: People with Bipolar Disorder may also misuse alcohol or drugs which can bring about issues in one’s personal life. Misuse of alcohol or drugs may be a sign of Bipolar Disorder, or, comparatively, people with Bipolar Disorder may use more alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Some people may concurrently experience PTSD with Bipolar Disorder. For some, PTSD can also contribute to the onset of Bipolar Disorder since it is associated with a significant amount of stress.
Physical Illnesses: Individuals with Bipolar Disorder are at a higher risk for thyroid disease, migraines, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more.
Eating Disorders: On occasion people with Bipolar Disorder may also have an eating disorder, such as binge eating or bulimia.
Some of these other conditions such as thyroid disease and substance abuse can either mimic the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, leading to misdiagnosis, or worsen symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. If you or someone you know has other health conditions in addition to Bipolar Disorder, it is important to discuss treatment implications with a trusted healthcare professional.
There are some factors that may put an individual at an increased risk of developing Bipolar Disorder including differences in brain functioning, genetics, stress, and family history. If an individual’s parent or sibling has the disorder, they are more likely to develop the disorder too. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than two-thirds of people with the disorder have at least one close relative who also has Bipolar Disorder.
However, having a relative with Bipolar Disorder does not guarantee someone else in the family will develop it as it is still relatively uncommon. If an individual has a family history of the illness and is also exposed to a significant amount of trauma or stress, that may add to the likelihood of developing the disorder. When risk factors compile, the likelihood increases.
The average age of onset for Bipolar Disorder is 25 but symptoms can occur in childhood and as late as 40s or 50s.