Signs of Bipolar Disorder

  • Young brunette woman at care looking off into distance
    Highs and Lows
    Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depressive disorder. And the name describes the illness. It involves depression with at least one episode of mania or hypomania. Bipolar can be hard to recognize because the highs and lows can seem like separate problems. But catching it and getting a correct diagnosis is vital because proper treatment can help bipolar people regain control over their lives. Read on to learn the signs.

  • Illustration of puzzle pieces with split faces showing different moods and emotions
    Manic Mood Changes
    An abnormally elevated mood is a characteristic of mania. This can mean that a person will act overly happy or outgoing. A manic person may feel naturally high in this state. In fact, mania can make people feel so high they become too stimulated and out of control. They end up being irritable, agitated, jumpy and anxious.

  • Shoe Shopping
    Manic Behavioral Changes
    Mania also has some behavioral changes that are consistent with an elevated mood. Manic people are highly active, easily distracted, restless, and overly talkative. They tend to have extremely high self-confidence levels and engage in risky behaviors. This can lead to impulsive sex and money problems from spending sprees and impulsive investments. In a manic phase, people may need very little sleep. Instead, they take on huge projects and feed their racing thoughts and intense imagination.

  • Young Caucasian woman with short brown hair looking down with head in hand
    Depressive Mood Changes
    The flip side of a manic episode is a depressive episode. These periods tend to occur more frequently, last longer, and be more problematic than manic episodes. During depressive episodes, people with bipolar disorder experience worry, emptiness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. They lose interest in previously enjoyable activities, including sex. Instead of the excitement of mania, they often display a very flat personality.

  • Young African American man sitting against wall with hands on head looking worried or sad
    Depressive Behavioral Changes
    People in depressive episodes also display behavioral changes at the other extreme. They are constantly tired and have trouble concentrating, remembering, and making simple decisions. Even their movements and speech may seem slow and difficult. During depressive episodes, people may sleep for long periods and have changes in their eating habits and other daily habits. It’s also common to have thoughts of death or suicide during these periods.

  • Photo illustration of Caucasian with multiple moods and expressions
    Mixed Episode Symptoms
    A mixed bipolar state has symptoms of both mania and depression at the same time. People having a mixed episode may feel many of the symptoms of depression, such as worry or hopelessness, but be very energized at the same time. They are often agitated, have changes in daily habits, and harbor suicidal thoughts. In this mixed state, suicide attempts are more likely. And those who suffer with mixed episodes are more likely to have a recurrent suicidal pattern of behavior.

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    Key Takeaways
    Many famous artists have suffered from bipolar disorder. Examples include Ludwig van Beethoven and Vincent Van Gogh. Some think their battles may have contributed in part to their genius, and to their deaths. There are also modern-day examples, such as Carrie Fisher and Jane Pauley, who have shared their stories in hopes of helping others to recognize these warning signs and avoid their mistakes. Recognizing the signs of bipolar is the first step toward healing and regaining control of your life.

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Bipolar Disorder. National Alliance on Mental Health. Accessed October 15, 2013.
  2. Bipolar Disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed October 15, 2013.
  3. Goldberg JF, McElroy SL. Bipolar mixed episodes: characteristics and comorbidities. J Clin Psychiatry. 2007 Oct;68(10):e25. Accessed October 15, 2013.
  4. Famous People with Mental Illness. Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. Accessed October 15, 2013.
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Last Review Date: 2018 Mar 4
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