Understanding Bipolar Disorder and its Symptoms.

Sad and happy mask

What is Bipolar Disorder?

A possibly life-long mental health problem, bipolar disorder is an illness that primarily affects your mood. It is marked by extreme changes in mood from being high to low and low to high. It is also commonly known as a manic-depressive disorder since the high periods are known as mania, and the lows are called depression. Bipolar disorder can also see you simultaneously feeling depressed and elated.

Manic depression is not an entirely uncommon issue. According to statistical figures between 1990 to 2017, the rate of bipolar disorder has been stable in the US. 0.65% of the population are reported to suffer from manic-depression each year in the country. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that approximately 4.4% of US adults experience bipolar disorder at some time during their lives. The symptoms of bipolar typically begin to appear during a person’s later teenage years or during early adulthood.

Diagnosing someone with bipolar disorder is a challenge for mental health professionals and people around the affected persons. However, there are signs of bipolar disorder that can help you recognize whether a person is struggling with the mental illness.

The Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

One of the reasons why it is so challenging to determine whether someone has bipolar disorder is that the symptoms can drastically vary from person to person. The degree of impairment can differ from moderate to serious, with most cases indicating serious impairment due to the mental health problem.

Another reason why it can be difficult to pinpoint the diagnosis is that some of the symptoms of bipolar can also be a result of other conditions. To determine whether someone is suffering from manic-depression, it is helpful to divide the signs of bipolar disorder into those for mania and for depression. Look for the signs of each.

Signs of Mania

Mania can include a broad range of symptoms. However, some of the most common signs that indicate mania for a person suffering from manic-depression can include:

  • Feeling a decreased need to sleep.
  • Feeling inexplicably happy for extended periods.
  • Overwhelming and racing thoughts along with talking very fast.
  • Being prone to distraction.
  • Being too confident in your abilities.
  • Feeling extremely restless.
  • A tendency to engage in reckless behavior, like gambling with life savings, spending too much money or having sex with someone on an impulse.

Signs of Depression

Like mania, depression can also cause a broad spectrum of symptoms in an individual. There are a few key symptoms of depression that you can see in a person who has bipolar disorder. These signs of bipolar disorder can include:

  • Feeling hopeless and sad for extended periods.
  • Feeling extreme lack of energy or being tired most of the time.
  • Experiencing trouble with concentration, decision-making, and memory.
  • Feeling a substantial change in appetite.
  • Losing interest in the things you once enjoyed doing.
  • Withdrawing from those closest to you, like friends and family.
  • Having suicidal thoughts or frequently thinking about death.

It is crucial to be wary of these signs. Make sure that if you know someone who is suffering from a combination of these has adequate support structures to help them. The presence of these symptoms can also mean that the person could be at immediate risk of harming others or themselves.

In case someone poses such a risk, make sure you call 911 or a local emergency number for help. Remove any medications, guns, knives, or other things that can potentially hurt someone. Listen to them and try not to argue, yell, or threaten them. Try to stay with the person until help can arrive. If you are afraid someone might be at risk of attempting suicide, there are suicide support helplines, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 0800-273-8255.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

While there are four common types of manic-depression disorder, the most common diagnosis is for Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorders. Here is how you can understand them:

Bipolar I

A common form of bipolar disorder, which is what used to be called manic-depression. The phases of mania are quite apparent in the person. Shifts in their mood can be extreme, and the behavior can worsen to the point that they completely lose control. If left untreated, a person with bipolar I can end up endangering themselves.

For a person to have bipolar I, the individual has to be experiencing manic episodes. The mania must:

  • Include drastic and uncharacteristic shifts in moods or behaviors.
  • Happen most of the day, almost every day.
  • Last at least a week or be extreme enough for the person to become hospitalized.

People with bipolar I can also have depressive episodes, but depression is not entirely necessary to make the diagnosis.

Bipolar II

The most common form of the disorder is called bipolar II, and it consists of a person experiencing depressive symptoms. The individual can experience manic symptoms, but they are not as severe and are referred to as hypomanic symptoms. Hypomania can worsen if there is no proper treatment for the individual. A person can become extremely depressed or manic if they do not receive treatment for it.


A rarer type of bipolar disorder is called Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic disorder. The symptoms of bipolar disorder that results in Cyclothymia include the signs of both bipolar I and II. However, the shifts and changes in mood are not as dramatic. A person suffering from Cyclothymia can live their day-to-day lives without the need for medical intervention. It can be challenging for someone with Cyclothymia, as the person’s symptoms can develop into either bipolar I or II over time.

Keep in mind that it is up to qualified professionals to make the diagnosis. There are cases where individuals suffer from some of the bipolar disorder symptoms, but they are not enough to diagnose one of the three types discussed above. In that case, the fourth classification is of people with certain symptoms rather than the mental illness.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Even when you are on the lookout for the signs of bipolar disorder, it can be difficult to determine whether someone or yourself has it. It is only apparent if someone suffers from extreme mania. Someone with hypomania might not be able to tell at all. It is essential for friends and family members to look out for hypomania symptoms and determine whether it would be a good idea to visit a medical professional to get a diagnosis.

Treatment for manic depression can drastically vary depending on the severity of the case. Once a doctor diagnoses an individual with bipolar, they work with the person to understand the true extent of it and decide on a treatment program to help them. Some of the treatment methods that can be a part of the program can include:

  • Medication for controlling manic depression
  • Substance abuse therapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Behavioral therapy

The treatment program can be different for various cases, and it is usually the responsibility of a licensed psychiatrist to manage the treatment. The program can entail the involvement of psychiatric nurses, psychologists, or social workers for your care.

Consult a Medical Professional

It is vital to understand bipolar disorder and its symptoms. It can help you detect the mental illness in yourself or those around you promptly. If you think that someone might have it, the most important step is to make sure that they are not a danger to themselves or to others. The second step is to consult with a trained medical professional who can diagnose the disorder.

Treatment cannot be effective without a proper diagnosis. With the right diagnosis, medication, therapy, or other treatment methods, people who suffer from manic depression or bipolar disorder can live a happy and fulfilling life.

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