Could it Be Bipolar? - Seven Signs to Look For

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on March 26, 2015
Medically Reviewed by Healthline Medical Team on March 26, 2015

What Is Bipolar?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme mood swings from highs to lows and vice versa. Each of these extreme episodes can last hours, days, weeks, or months. The mood swings may even become mixed, so you might feel elated and depressed at the same time. Bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose, but there are warning signs you can look for. Keep reading to learn more. 

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Although there are four recognized types of bipolar disorder, there are two types that are most commonly diagnosed:

Bipolar I

This is the classic form of the illness. Bipolar I leaves no doubt as to whether someone is in a manic (extreme elation) phase, as their behavior quickly escalates until they’re out of control. The person could end up in the emergency room or worse if left untreated. To qualify as having bipolar I, a person must have manic or mixed episodes that last at least 7 days, or manic symptoms that are so extreme that the individual requires immediate hospital care.

Bipolar II

Bipolar II is four times more common than bipolar I. It’s characterized by much less severe manic symptoms (also referred to as hypomanic symptoms). These signs are harder for people to see in themselves, and it's often up to friends or loved ones to encourage them to get help. Hypomania often becomes worse without proper treatment, and the person can become severely manic or depressed.

What Are the Signs of Bipolar Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health and other psychiatric authorities, bipolar disorder may include these warning signs:

Seven Signs of Bipolar Mania

  1. Feeling overly happy, “high,” or elated for long stretches of time.
  2. Feeling easily agitated, some describe it as feeling jumpy or twitchy.
  3. Talking super fast, often accompanied by racing thoughts.
  4. Extreme restlessness or impulsivity.
  5. Impaired judgment.
  6. Unrealistic over-confidence in your abilities or powers.
  7. Engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees.

Seven Signs of Bipolar Depression

  1. Feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time.
  2. Withdrawal from friends and family, and/or a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
  3. Significant loss or increase in appetite.
  4. Severe fatigue or lack of energy.
  5. Slow speech.
  6. Problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making.
  7. Thoughts or attempts of suicide, or preoccupation with death.

How Is Bipolar Diagnosed?

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose. Unless you have severe mania, in which case the signs are unmistakable, the symptoms can be hard to spot. People who have hypomania, a milder form of the manic side, may feel more energized than usual, more confident and full of ideas, and able to get by on less sleep — hardly anyone complains about that. You're more likely to seek help if you're suffering from depression, but then your doctor may not have opportunity to observe the manic side.

When doctors do suspect bipolar disorder, they may use a few different approaches to make the diagnosis:

  • physical exam to rule out any other medical conditions that could cause symptoms, such as thyroid disease
  • mental health evaluation, which may include a questionnaire and interviews with family members
  • a mood charting diary to keep track of your sleep patterns and daily moods
  • using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to compare your symptoms with the official criteria for bipolar disorder

If you're worried that you might have bipolar disorder, the best thing to do is educate yourself about the different types of mood disorders and their symptoms and then consult your doctor.

It can be harder to address if you’re concerned about a friend or loved one having bipolar disorder. Enlist the help of other friends or family members. People with bipolar disorder often tend to deny any problems, especially during manic episodes. Think of bipolar disorder as you would any other serious disease, and get professional help right away.

How Is Bipolar Treated?

Once you have a diagnosis your doctor will decide on a treatment program that works best for you. Bipolar treatment may include:

  • medication
  • psychotherapy
  • substance abuse treatment
  • electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Treatment is usually managed by a licensed psychiatrist, but you may also have a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatric nurse involved in the treatment process.

Treatment for bipolar must be ongoing. When people stop taking their medication or meeting with their doctor, they will likely experience manic and depressive episodes again. However, with the proper treatment, bipolar disorder can be controlled and a person can go on to lead a healthy and productive life.

Send us your feedback

Thank you.

Your message has been sent.

We're sorry, an error occurred.

We are unable to collect your feedback at this time. However, your feedback is important to us. Please try again later.

Read This Next

The Best Bipolar Disorder iPhone and Android Apps of the Year
The Best Bipolar Disorder iPhone and Android Apps of the Year
Living with bipolar disorder can be challenging, but these apps can make you smile, help you connect with others, and teach you something about yourself.
The Best Bipolar Health Blogs of the Year
The Best Bipolar Health Blogs of the Year
Read about the 13 best bipolar blogs of the year. These brave & creative bloggers have built a helpful online community for bipolar individuals & their loved ones.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Common Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood shifts. These are called "manic" and "depressive" episodes. Learn about the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Best Bipolar Videos of 2013
Best Bipolar Videos of 2013
See bipolar disorder through the eyes of those who live it and experts to get a better understanding of this mental health condition.
Foods That Beat Fatigue
Foods That Beat Fatigue
Learn to fight the fatigue associated with depression through diet with 10 surefire tips around what to eat and drink, when to eat, and which foods to avoid.
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sign Up Today to Receive the Latest

HealthlineNews
Stay informed with up-to-date health news—on the topics that matter to you. Subscribe now:
  •  All News
  •  Fitness and Exercise
  •  Senior Health


Thanks very much!

Advertisement