Bipolar Disorder: Signs and Symptoms

This information was taken directly from The National Institute of Mental Health

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called "mood episodes." Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode. Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described below.

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include: Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:
Mood Changes Mood Changes
A long period of feeling high, or an overly happy or outgoing mood An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
Extreme irritability Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
Behavioral Changes Behavioral Changes
Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, Feeling tired or slowed down
having racing thoughts Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
Being easily distracted Being restless or irritable
Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
Being overly restless Think of death or suicide, or attempting suicide
Sleeping little or not being tired
Having an unrealistic belief on one’s abilities
Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors

Bipolar disorder can be present even when mood swings are less extreme. For example, some people with bipolar disorder experience hypomania, a less severe form of mania. During a hypomanic episode, you may feel very good, be highly productive, and function well. You may not feel that anything is wrong, but family and friends may recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.

Bipolar disorder may also be present in a mixed state, in which you might experience both mania and depression at the same time. During a mixed state, you might feel very agitated, have trouble sleeping, experience major changes in appetite, and have suicidal thoughts. People in a mixed state may feel very sad or hopeless while at the same time feel extremely energized.

Sometimes, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression has psychotic symptoms too, such as hallucinations or delusions. The psychotic symptoms tend to reflect the person's extreme mood. For example, if you are having psychotic symptoms during a manic episode, you may believe you are a famous person, have a lot of money, or have special powers. If you are having psychotic symptoms during a depressive episode, you may believe you are ruined and penniless, or you have committed a crime. As a result, people with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms are sometimes misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.

People with bipolar disorder may also abuse alcohol or substances, have relationship problems, or perform poorly in school or at work. It may be difficult to recognize these problems as signs of a major mental illness.

Bipolar disorder usually lasts a lifetime. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of symptoms, but some people may have lingering symptoms.

Continue to Bipolar Disorder: Who is at Risk? or return to Special Needs

Resource

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.