I have found my bipolar disorder to be exhilarating, dark, and painful. I found that one of the benefits of this disorder was the creativity, energy, and euphoria that came with the mania. For the longest time, I didn’t realize that this was mania. Speaking as an individual who is living with Bipolar Disorder, below are signs and symptoms that I experience and others mays too.
You just failed a big test and are pretty bummed about it. Or, you’re going through a bad breakup and feeling pretty down. We’ve all been there. In day-to-day life, everyone experiences ups and downs every now and then. Eventually, time passes on and our mood becomes better and we become “ourselves” again. Unlike the normal population, individuals living with bipolar disorder cycle through extreme mood swings that cause disruption to daily life.
Bipolar Disorder. Manic Depression. Bipolar Affective Disorder. All three terms are synonymous with each other and the name of a mental health disorder. The classic symptoms of bipolar disorder are the periodic changes in mood, alternating between periods of elevated mood (mania or hypomania) and periods of depression. If you are living with bipolar disorder, you may feel energetic, abnormally happy, and make reckless or impulsive decisions during manic states. During depressive states, you may feel the overwhelming urge to cry, experience feelings of hopelessness, and have a negative outlook on life. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania, where you generally feel pretty good with a better sense of well-being and productivity.
With bipolar disorder, you don’t just feel “down in the dumps;” your depressive state may lead to suicidal thoughts that change over to feelings of euphoria and endless energy. These extreme mood swings can occur more frequently such as every week or show up more sporadically, maybe just twice a year. There is also no defined pattern to the mood swings. One does not always occur before the other, and the length of time you are in one state or the other varies as well. The good news is that there are a number of treatments that can keep your moods in check allowing you to live a productive life.
There are many types of bipolar disorder; three of the most common include: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder. Bipolar I Disorder is characterized by the occurrence of at least one manic episode, preceded or followed by a hypomanic or major depressive episode. Manic episodes may be so severe they significantly disrupt your daily functioning or may trigger a break from reality (psychosis). If you are suffering from Bipolar I Disorder, you may require hospitalization. If you are living with Bipolar II Disorder, you experience at least one major depressive episode lasting two weeks or more and at least one hypomanic episode lasting at least four days. But, you will not have experienced a manic episode. Cyclothymic Disorder is characterized by at least two years of multiple occurrences of hypomania symptoms and depressive symptoms, these symptoms are less severe than hypomanic episodes and major depressive episodes. During this time, symptoms present themselves at least half of the time and are constant for at least two months.
Because there are many different stages of bipolar disorder, the signs and symptoms vary from person to person and from type to type. Presented below are the most common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, categorized by emotional state.
A manic episode is characterized by a distinct and abnormal state of elevated, expansive, or irritable mood occurring for at least one week. The manic episode is persistently driven by a goal-directed behavior or energy. A hypomanic episode is a distinct and abnormal state of elevated, expansive, or irritable mood that lasts for at least four consecutive days.
If you have been diagnosed as suffering from bipolar disorder, you may experience any of the signs and symptoms during a manic period:
- long period of feeling “high” – an overly elated, happy, and outgoing mood
- feeling extremely irritable
- being easily distracted
- having racing thoughts
- talking very fast
- jumping from one thought to another when talking
- taking on a lot of new projects
- boundless energy
- sleeping very little
- not feeling tired
- unrealistically believing you can do something
- engaging in impulsive, pleasurable, and high-risk behaviors (e.g., poor financial investments, sexual indiscretions, shopping sprees)
- inflated self-esteem
- feelings of grandiosity
- increased agitation
- increased goal-directed activity
- high sex drive
- making grand and unattainable plans
- detachment from reality – psychosis that may include delusions or hallucinations
- Manic behaviors interfere with functioning at school or work, in social situations, and in relationships. These behaviors occur on their own and they do not occur due to alcohol or drug use, a medical illness, or a side effect of a medication.
The depressive side of bipolar disorder is characterized by a major depressive episode resulting in a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in life. If you are living with bipolar disorder, during depressive states, you may experience some of the following signs and symptoms:
- feeling sad, tearful, hopeless, or empty for the majority of the day on a daily basis
- no pleasure or interest in day-to-day activities
- weight fluctuations – including significant weight loss or weight gain
- sleep disturbances – sleeping too much or other sleep problems, such as insomnia
- restlessness or slowed behaviors
- suicidal thoughts, planning, or attempts
- feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- inability to concentrate
- loss of energy
- feelings of fatigue
- psychosis – being detached from reality; delusions or hallucinations
- loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- uncontrollable crying
Depressive behaviors can interfere with school or work, family or personal relationships, and social functioning. If you are suffering from bipolar disorder, like I do, and undergoing a depressive episode, it is not the result of substance abuse, medications, an underlying medical condition, or stressful situation such as grieving the loss of a loved one.
If you are living with bipolar depression, it is important to follow your treatment plan. Pay attention to warning signs or triggers this can help you seek additional treatment, talk with your counselor or mental health provider, and prevent the onset of a full attack. Avoid drugs and alcohol, and take your medication as prescribed even on days you feel fine. Following your treatment plan, educating yourself about your disorder, and engaging in prevention techniques will positively contribute to your overall well-being and life satisfaction.