One moment you’re feeling elated and like you can take on the world, and the next, you feel worthlessness and despair. In some cases, these emotions can be a normal response to the ups and downs of life. But when you experience extreme moods or long-lasting mood problems, you may have bipolar disorder.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, around 4.4 percent of U.S. adults have experienced bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime. According to a 2003 survey, 2.8 percent of people had experienced bipolar disorder within the past year.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of mania, depression, and normal mood. Manic and depressive episodes can be severe, getting in the way of everyday life. It’s categorized as a mood disorder, which means that a person’s moods are extreme or improperly regulated. Bipolar disorder can also manifest in physical symptoms like very high or very low energy levels, sleep problems, and shifts in weight. Manic phases often cause people to skip sleep and meals, while depressive states may result in hypersomnia or weight gain.
Bipolar disorder can be a complex psychological problem that’s difficult to diagnose. It’s often misdiagnosed as major depression. There are also different types of bipolar disorder that are dependent on your experience with manic and depressive phases. However, recognizing the signs of bipolar disorder might help you get the treatment you need as soon as possible. Learn more about bipolar disorder and how it can be treated.
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed with two subcategories: bipolar I and bipolar II disorder. Bipolar I is diagnosed when a person goes through at least one manic episode, whether or not they experience a depressive episode. Bipolar II involves no manic episodes but at least one major depressive episode. It may have episodes of hypomania, which is mild manic symptoms that are brief and less severe.
Mood shifts can happen over a month or within the same day. The characterization of bipolar symptoms as causing extreme mood swings in mere moments aren’t always true, but it is possible. In some cases, people spend time in normal moods before slipping into one extreme or the other. Others may have a depressive period, a normal period, and another depressive period before experiencing a manic episode.
Identifying the mania and depression of bipolar disorders means recognizing the signs from each episode. Diagnosing manic and depressive episodes also requires that multiple symptoms are experienced for most of each day for two weeks for depression and one week for mania.
A manic episode is characterized by heightened mood and an increase in energy and activity. It can cause one to make rash decisions, such as spending large amounts of money or planning lavish trips. Severe manic episodes can cause psychosis that’s marked by delusional thinking like there is an unseen enemy that only you can defeat.
Manic episodes are usually less common than depressive ones. However, they can be extreme, causing serious consequences. It’s common for mania to cause strained relationships and financial instability. However, it can also cause medical complications. Not getting enough sleep can lead to long-term health problems like heart disease. The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can include:
Depressive episodes are marked by prolonged periods of low energy and feelings of hopelessness. It can also cause you to feel unmotivated and apathetic, which can make fulfilling everyday responsibilities a challenge. These episodes can last for most of the day or for weeks at a time. Depression can cause serious consequences like obesity, chronic pain, substance use issues, social isolation, and it can increase your risk of suicide. Other signs and symptoms include:
Bipolar disorder doesn’t seem to be bound to any particular sex, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. It affects men and women at similar rates. It seems to come on in young adulthood and becomes less common as we age. The most common age of onset is 25, and people between 18 and 29 represent the age group with the most reported current bipolar disorders.
Risk factors can include family members with the disorder, traumatic events, periods of high-stress, substance use disorders, and other mental health issues.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health disorder that might be related to bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Bipolar disorder can cause serious consequences that affect your physical and psychological health. It can also strain your relationships and finances.
However, bipolar disorder is treatable with the right help. Psychotherapies and pharmacological options can be used to treat the disorder, depending on your needs. Take a step toward better mental health today by learning more about bipolar disorder and how it can be treated.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/bipolar-disorder
Depression (major depressive disorder). (2018, February 3). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20356007
Legg, T. J. (2018, June 4). 7 Steps for Dealing with a Depressive Episode. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/strategies-for-dealing-with-depressive-episode
National Institute of Mental Health. (2017, November). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml
Robinson, M. (2017, June 27). This Is What It Feels Like to Have a Bipolar Manic Episode. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/what-a-bipolar-manic-episode-feels-like#1