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Bipolar Center

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood.  However, symptoms of bipolar can also manifest during childhood, and some bipolar symptoms develop late in life. Bipolar may be difficult to diagnose as an illness, and some people may suffer for years before the mental illness is properly identified and treated. 

The deep mood swings of bipolar disorder may last for weeks or months. Research suggests that bipolar disorder manifests a wide range of symptoms.  The main characteristics of bipolar disorder are quick changes from mania to depression and back again. The periods of highs and lows are called "episodes".  Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are strong and happen along with extreme changes in behavior and energy levels. The signs and symptoms of manic episodes and depressive episodes follow.

Signs of a manic episode/ mania

  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Decreased need for sleep without fatigue
  • Denial that anything is wrong
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Drug abuse (especially cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications)
  • Exaggerated optimism
  • Excessively "high" or euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Impulsiveness
  • Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Increased physical and mental activity and energy
  • Increased restlessness
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Racing thoughts jumping from one idea to another
  • Risky behaviors
  • Shopping sprees
  • Talking very fast
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers

Signs of a depressive episode / depression

  • Chronic pain not caused by physical illness or injury
  • Decreased energy,
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Feeling fatigued or of being "slowed down"
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Indifference
  • Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness
  • Sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Significant changes in appetite
  • Sleeping too much, or difficulty sleeping
  • Social withdrawal
  • Weight loss or gain (unintentional)

It may be helpful to think of the various mood states in bipolar disorder as a continuous range of moods. At one end is severe depression, which is followed by moderate depression and then mild low mood.  Normal or balanced mood is somewhere in the middle of the continuum, after which comes mild to moderate mania and then severe mania.

Bipolar disorder may mimic a problem other than mental illness such as alcohol or drug abuse, poor school or work performance, or strained interpersonal relationships. Such problems, in fact, may be signs of an underlying mood disorder.  If you experience any symptoms of bipolar disorder, seek medical help as soon as possible.  In order to understand the ins and outs of diagnosis, read the next sectiowhich describes how doctors use a bipolar test here.

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