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.