Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder associated with unusual mood swings between periods of extremely “up” behavior (manic episodes) and extremely “down” behavior (depressive episodes).

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as the benefits of bipolar disorder treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Men and women across America are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Over 2.7 million, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
Many others are undiagnosed, not because they don’t want to be, but because they may not understand their symptoms or recognize the need to seek professional help.

The more you know about bipolar disorder, the easier it will be to make decisions based on signs you or someone you love may be exhibiting.

Before detailing the signs and symptoms, it’s crucial to understand the definition of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Defined

When a person’s mood becomes negatively affected due to physiological reasons, like imbalanced chemicals in the brain, it is considered to be out of order or disordered. The cause of bipolar disorder is related to genetics, family history, and your environment. Usually, it is a combination of all three.

When discussing bipolar, two specific moods are involved: depression and mania.

Think of bipolar as a pendulum that swings from left to right. One the left, depression. On the right, mania. The pendulum can swing wide from one side to the other or swing narrowly between the two. Each person diagnosed with bipolar can have different ranges in symptoms.

One person may have severe depression for a while and then swing to emotional highs. Others may have mild mood swings. Because of this, different types of bipolar disorder have been established: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic. There are times when bipolar is caused by medical conditions or induced by drug or alcohol addiction. For each category, the symptoms will vary.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Psychiatrists will examine the length of time spent in both depression and mania to determine a diagnosis. For Bipolar I, you must have been in severe mania for at least seven days. Some people experience severe depression for as long as two weeks before they cycle back to mania. Typically, mania in this phase will require hospitalization.

In Bipolar II, mania is not as severe as in Bipolar I. It is called hypomania in this stage. Depression is less severe also. In Cyclothymia, the length of time in each phase is extended. Some stay in a depressive stage for two years or longer before cycling to a degree of mania.

The symptoms are broken down further below to help you fully understand the difference between mania and depression.

Symptoms of Mania

Mania, when extreme, can feel euphoric for a person with bipolar disorder. They like this feeling a lot and may not see how it is interfering with their life or the life of others. When manic, people have a lot of energy. They may not sleep for multiple days. And even though they get a lot accomplished during that time, they are not healthy.

Also increased is their self-esteem, restlessness, impulsive behaviors, and lack of ability to concentrate and make decisions. Manic behavior can negatively impact career and personal relationships. This high will eventually drop to a dangerous low.

Symptoms of Depression

The depressive symptoms often last a lot longer than manic symptoms. You can expect a person with bipolar disorder depression to lack energy, over-sleep, and feel sadness or hopelessness. They may even have suicidal thoughts. They struggle to focus and may experience physical aches and pains.

Some may appear confused and become short-tempered over any little thing that bothers them. Also, a person with bipolar disorder may experience appetite changes, either eating more than usual or not wanting to eat at all.

For both manic and depressive phases, any behavior that is not characteristic may be considered a symptom and should be discussed with a psychiatrist.

While the onset of bipolar typically happens for people in their mid-twenties, children and adolescents can also have the disorder. It is essential to seek help as soon as you start to notice symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosing Symptoms

A Psychiatrist is the best professional to give you an accurate diagnosis based on many assessment methods. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can order blood work, brain scans and provide lengthy examinations on your history.

The best thing you can do to help in the diagnostic process is to document your symptoms. This will help your doctor provide a diagnosis and, with your help, create a treatment plan of care. Treatment for bipolar disorder is long-term since there is no cure today.

However, symptoms can be treated successfully.

Treatment for Signs and Symptoms

The treatment for bipolar disorder will be based on the severity of your symptoms. If you have Cyclothymia, your treatment may include low doses of bipolar medication and individual therapy as needed.

If you have severe bipolar disorder symptoms, you may require higher doses of medication and more intensive sessions with a mental health professional. For example, if you are experiencing psychosis related to bipolar, you may benefit from antipsychotic medicine. Or, if you experience anxiety or panic attacks, anti-anxiety medication may help.

During the times you struggle to sleep, your psychiatrist can prescribe medication to help you sleep. Anti-depressants are another key medicine known to help those in the depression phase of bipolar. The combination of talk therapy and medication has helped many people cope with mood swings to continue to thrive in all areas of their lives.

Treatment includes medical treatment and counseling and lifestyle changes you can make to further your success in dealing with your symptoms. For the best results, we recommend contacting a mental health professional and establish a treatment plan.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Symptoms

Your lifestyle can have a significant impact on how well you cope with bipolar disorder symptoms. First, avoid using drugs or alcohol, which will cause physical and mental health problems and exacerbate bipolar disorder symptoms.

Also, eat a healthy diet, use vitamins, minerals, and herbs, exercise, and create routines that allow you to achieve restorative, healing sleep. Use relaxation and stress-management techniques, as well as mindfulness activities like meditation. Finally, work with your mental health professional team to make your bipolar disorder a priority.