What are the symptoms of being bipolar?

What is involved with being bipolar? I have heard that people with this have really high highs and really low lows. Is this generally all that this disorder entails or are there more symptoms than these?

That’s a pretty basic explanation for a pretty confusing disorder. Extreme highs and lows are the most easily recognizable symptoms of bipolar disorder, but there are more pieces to the puzzle, and they can vary from person to person.

Let’s start with the highs– mania. Many people believe that it means that the person who is manic is very, very happy, but that isn’t always the case. When I’m manic, I can be happy, bubbly, and fun. I can also be anxious, irritated, sometimes even angry! I might go without sleep or food because I feel like I don’t need them, and I might make decisions very quickly.  My mind will not stop racing. It’s like someone turned my life into a videotape and hit “fast forward”. Sometimes people who are experiencing mania might have hallucinations, become paranoid, or begin to believe things that aren’t true.

And then there’s the other side– depression. Aside from feeling sad, a person in a depressive phase might be unable to focus and might not have the energy to work, socialize, or to even take care of themselves. When I am depressed, I lose interest in things that I love to do and I tend to withdraw from friends and family. I might stop eating because I feel hopeless and don’t see the point, or I might overeat because it’s the only thing that feels good. Sometimes people who are depressed may be anxious or suffer from low self-esteem. And, like mania, some people who are depressed can also become irritable.

There are different types of bipolar disorder, and not every bipolar person has all of the same symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms can change from episode to episode, and sometimes they can even change during an episode. Additionally, the symptoms of bipolar are pretty similar to symptoms of other mood disorders– and feelings that almost every person has, at some point in their lives. That’s one of the reasons it can be hard to recognize and differentiate bipolar disorder from “just being human”, and why it’s important to seek help if you think you or a loved one might have bipolar.

6 thoughts on “What are the symptoms of being bipolar?

  1. In fact bipolar disorder is a category of mental disorders rather than being one single diagnosis. It covers a wide range of symptoms with various, more specific names, dependant on a person’s actual symptoms. Factors taken into account include the level of the highs and the lows, their frequency, which is predominant and even more factors. I can certainly testify (as mentioned above) that full blown mania can be anything but fun.)
    Alison, the type of bipolar you refer to is bipolar, type 1 (which I am diagnosed with.) It is this type where a person is most likely to experience full blown mania. Bipolar, type 2 is generally where a person experiences hypomania. (Hypomania falls short of being a full manic state.) Often a person in a hypomanic state actually enjoys the condition. Their mind becomes very sharp. The problem this creates is a denial of the existence of the episode. In turn this cane lead to treatment not being sought until the next event in the cycle arrives. The disorder generally, but not always, follows a similar pattern for a particular person.
    If the cycling is very fast the diagnoses could be rapid cycling or even ultra rapid cycling bipolar.
    I agree, as suggested above, that if you suspect that you, or someone you like, might have bipolar disorder treatment should be obtained. The diagnosis is for life. The chaos the disorder creates does not have to be. By proper management it is definitely possible for one to regain control of their life.

  2. Another thing that is quite common is what are called mixed episodes, in which we have symptoms of both mania (or hypomania) and depression at the same time. When I’m going from a hympomanic episode to a depressive episode, I will often enter this state. It’s a weird feeling of being extremely down, but also very agitated and hyper at the same time. I think that’s the worst period for me.

  3. Yes, a mixed episode for me usually entails something along the lines of feeling happy, having things going good in my life but still loose interest in things, not feel like getting out of bed some days but not being able to sleep, & becoming anxious. Mixed states are the most common episodes for me. They are no fun.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post Alison. I have bipolar II and I do have some hypomanic phases from time to time, but for me depression is more prominent and longer lasting. Certain things may trigger the depression or sometimes it is the time of year. For me November/December are generally really rough for me, I tend to get depressed at this time of year. I also lost a close friend a few years ago in April so around the end of March my depression starts to emerge……. I think that mania/depression and the level of severity and length for each are very individual, it really depends on the person I find. Vicky I have also written a blog on Hypomania if you are interested in reading it, you can find it on this site in the blog section, you have to go back a little to previous blogs to find it.

  5. Ray, great response. I am saving this for reference. Especially appreciated that you included that Bipolar Disorder is a lifetime illness, and, with proper management it is definetely possible to regain control. I was diagnosed in 1976, BP 1. I feel that we have the responsibility and opportunity yof helping our fellow bps to realize that they can have a happier future. We are the testimony!

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