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What are Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

An integral aspect of the human experience involves the natural ebbs and flows of life, the highs and lows, joys and sorrows, laughter and tears, and everything in between that comes part and parcel with our short stays on earth. We will all go through some variation of hurt, loss, physical pain, heartbreak, separation, betrayal, embarrassment, or sadness. Most of us will weather this voyage over turbulent waters growing, if not accustomed then at least prepared for the inevitable peaks and valleys; managing to remain even-keeled regardless of our circumstances.

However, for the three percent of the American population that suffers from some form of bipolar disorder, their ability to mentally handle life's highs and lows is severely hampered due to their mental condition; their highs are higher, and their lows are much, much lower. Initially diagnosed as manic depression, this serious mental illness can ruin relationships, crush dreams, and increase the risk of suicide.

The DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) estimates that nearly six million American, men, and women have bipolar disorder with more than eighty percent of those cases being classified as severe. Of these six million people, the vast majority of cases first manifest the symptoms between the age of fifteen to twenty-five years of age. For such people, their ability to function normally, maintain their work or school life, manage relationships, and make wise decisions is critically diminished as they oscillate between bouts of mania/hypomania, depression.

While there may be months of stability in between, if nothing is done to treat the root issues, future bouts of either mania or depression will predictably occur. Most forms of bipolar disorder can be managed, if not eradicated, with therapy and medication, but it will take trial and error to find the right balance of chemical levels. Because of the potential problems that arise during periods of depression or mania, it is vital that you consult medical professionals and seek help as soon as possible. Below we will answer what are symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as examine signs to look out for.

Two sides of the coin

As mentioned above, those who live with bipolar disorder go through two vastly different abnormalities in their moods; a peak and a valley. These episodes, lasting weeks, if not months, alternate between hypomania and depression, and in some cases involve episodes of psychosis.

Mania

Mania is the term given to the elevated states of mood where one feels hyper-energized. Symptoms include:

Feeling Wired – During a manic phase, some people feel as if their mind is constantly racing, moving a thousand miles a minute. They jump from one idea to another, or begin a task, only to set it aside for a new one. They come up with lists of things to do, or people they need to talk with, or things that they want to accomplish. They are easily distracted and flit like hummingbirds from one topic to another, often unable or unwilling to focus on an idea or conversation. It is not uncommon for them to speed talk in an effort to keep up with their thought process, and some actually have trouble speaking clearly since their mind is ten steps ahead of their tongue. Understandably, this erratic type of behavior can be seen as irrational, exasperating, or worrisome for their loved ones who have to live with them day to day. Because this inability to focus is similar to the symptoms of ADHD, in some cases, younger children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyper disorder.

Abnormally irritable, upbeat, or outgoing – Some who experience mania feel a sense of euphoria and joy, others have severe tempers where they are inexplicably angry, shifting from content to raving mad over something insignificant. While we all experience such emotions, these are a radical departure from normal moods. Often times, these people can feel all of these emotions to varying degrees, arbitrarily depending upon the day. Living with someone who is manic can be exhausting since you might always feel like you are tiptoeing through a minefield, never knowing what might set off your loved one.

Decreased need for sleep – While some call it insomnia, that definition is not technically correct. Those who have insomnia generally feel exhausted during the day. People during a manic episode, in many cases, do not display or feel symptoms of exhaustion. Similarly to the racing mind, people with bipolar disorder only sleep for a few hours a day, if that, and often do not feel like “wasting time” with sleep.

Overinflated sense of self – Those experiencing mania often experience an exaggerated feeling of brilliance, understanding, power, or importance to the world. They may feel as if they have discovered answers to life or truths others are too blind to see. Their egos may be turned up to a ten, and they may think themselves capable of physical feats far beyond their actual abilities. This can often lead to them endangering their lives or putting others in harm’s way through reckless decision making.

Extremely Energetic – People experiencing mania will have seemingly boundless energy. They will try and juggle ten tasks at once, take on projects they had always talked about doing, and take risks they otherwise would never accept.

Self-Destructive Behavior – Manics often are hyper-impulsive. This not only induces additional physical risks, but shopping sprees, wasting money, abusing drugs or alcohol, poor investments, engaging in foolish affairs or other uncharacteristic actions. Also, when individuals combine bipolar disorder with substance abuse, this causes symptoms to worsen and impair their mental health even more. During this period of impaired judgment, years of investment in school, a career, or relationships may be casually thrown by the wayside.

Increased libido – Those with mania often exhibit higher levels of libido. Add this to the impaired judgment, wandering mind and sense of superiority and you have a recipe for affairs, promiscuity, and unsafe sexual decisions. The broken relationships that follow in the wake of such decisions can quickly lead to severe depressions when the ramifications of one's actions are truly understood and experienced.

In some cases, such symptoms can appear to a lesser degree. People experiencing hypo-mania can often manage the symptoms, and for some, such symptoms can actually increase work performance. However, even more, minor symptoms can lead to full-blown mania or swings to deep depression; therefore, it is wise to consult a doctor if you or a loved one notices signs of mania.

Depression

Depression is the flip side of the mania’s coin; a mood state marked by extreme low-energy as well as overwhelming gloomy thoughts and feelings about the state of the world and the state of one’s life. A person in a depression can feel almost as if they’re underwater, with everything moving slowly around them; they have trouble seeing the point in getting out of bed, of going along with their day; they struggle with the mundanity and seeming hopelessness of life. People who are depressed have trouble feeling anything but sad even during times of fun, excitement, or hilarity. They are indecisive and struggle to act normally. Signs of depression include:

A muddied mind – While people with mania have their mind moving too quickly, those in a depressive episode feel as if their brain is stuck in quicksand, paralyzed, as if a haze has come over their cognitive brains, causing their reactions to be delayed. In a depression, it is difficult to concentrate on tasks, remember things or conversations, and to make smart decisions.

Regular Fatigue – In contrast to the high energy of mania, depression leaves a person feeling sedentary, exhausted and unmotivated. Getting out of bed or even showering can be a monumental task that seems to be pointless. Depressed people will often sleep far more than usual and still feel tired and out of energy.

Lack of Appetite – Those suffering a depressive episode tend not to eat often and when they do it is more for survival than pleasure. They might forget to eat or not see a reason to.

Hopelessness – The default state for those with bipolar disorder is a depressed mood, as if their world has been cast into sepia tones. They have difficulty seeing the point or taking joy in the small and larger moments of life. They may interact with whatever scene they find themselves in, but take little to no lasting pleasure from it.

Suicidal thoughts or attempts – Concordantly, depression often leads to profound moments of self-reflection, or hyper-scrutiny that generally lingers on one's mistakes, failed relationships, or other significant errors that occurred while manic. They might feel overwhelming guilt or feelings of worthlessness. Unfortunately, such reflection may turn into a nasty, mind loop of self-loathing that leads to the conclusion that their life is not worth living. Tragically, studies show that one in five people who have bipolar disorder take their own lives.

*As a note, if you ever have feelings of life being insufferable and are seriously considering taking your own life, speak to a medical professional right away for bipoloar disorder treatment; reach out to loved ones and friends. You are loved. Your life has meaning and possibly ending your existence is a final solution to a temporary problem that will have repercussions beyond yourself. If you suffer from bipolar disorder, odds are the right combination of medication and therapy can help eradicate such thoughts.

Four types of bipolar disorder

There are for distinct types of bipolar disorder, with two being far more common.

Bipolar I

A standard version of bipolar disorder, bipolar 1 used to be characterized as “manic depression.” With bipolar I, the phases of mania are quite distinct; their moods and behavior swing rapidly with an intensity that leaves them feeling out of control. Such a person could easily end up in an ER if their chemical balances remained untreated. To qualify for bipolar I, a person has to experience mania, which has to include:

Feelings that are present throughout the majority of the day and occur nearly every day.

Moods and behaviors that are abnormal for their baseline actions or reactions.

Symptoms must last at least a week, or be of such severity that they require medical attention.

Those who have bipolar I will quite often have depressive episodes too, but they are not required to have such a diagnosis.

Bipolar II

The most common version of bipolarism, II has stronger bouts of depressive episodes with manic symptoms that are bordering on the hypomanic side. Due to the natural feelings of depression, bipolar II is harder to treat, often since the user is less receptive to or caring about changing. Mania manifests much more severely and often the negative results are easier to see and thus lead to corrective action. Those with bipolar II may need regular encouragement from friends and loved ones to get treatment.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder often results in mood swings akin to those of bipolar I and II although the shifts are less substantial. A person suffering from cyclothymic disorder can regularly go about their day without the aid of medication, although they will likely go through periods where this is more of a struggle. Also, as time passes, their mood swings may further develop symptoms of bipolar I or II. Because the symptoms are milder, it is harder to diagnose such cases.

General Bipolarism

On rare occasions, you will find people who fall into this general category and exhibit some bipolar symptoms but do so irregularly or at varying degrees. As a result, the signs are not strong enough to distinguish them from one type of bipolarism to another.

Conclusion

If you or someone you love exhibits any of these symptoms, it is wise to consult a medical professional. Even if it is only a safe measure, nipping any medical problem in the bud is the safest course of action. During your consultation, your doctor or mental health professional should be able to begin a diagnosis and hopefully chart a course for treatment. With the help of medications and therapy, your bipolar disorder can be handled, if not thoroughly treated.

Call Peaks Recovery to learn more about the symptoms, signs, and causes of bipolar disorder.