Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes significant mood changes, from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). While many people experience mood swings to some degree, bipolar disorder can cause severe and disruptive changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.
It is estimated that around 2.8% of adults in the United States have bipolar disorder, and it affects both men and women equally. Symptoms most commonly appear for the first time between the ages of 18 and 29. Despite its prevalence, the disorder is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed, even by professionals. Given how the symptoms of bipolar disorder can often be misdiagnosed, it’s helpful to research this information online before consulting a doctor or therapist for a proper diagnosis.
Extreme Mood Swings
The most common symptom of bipolar disorder is experiencing extreme mood swings. During manic episodes, individuals may feel euphoric, have high levels of energy, and feel invincible. During depressive episodes, individuals may feel hopeless, have low energy, and lack interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
During manic episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder may exhibit impulsive behavior, such as spending sprees, risky sexual behavior, or reckless driving. These behaviors can have serious consequences and may put the individual at risk of harm.
Another symptom of bipolar disorder is racing thoughts. During manic episodes, individuals may have a flood of ideas and thoughts that they cannot control, which can cause them to speak rapidly and jump from topic to topic.
Sleep disturbances are common in individuals with bipolar disorder. During manic episodes, individuals may not feel the need to sleep or may have trouble falling asleep. During depressive episodes, individuals may oversleep and struggle to wake up in the morning.
Changes in Appetite
Changes in appetite are also common in individuals with bipolar disorder. During manic episodes, individuals may lose their appetite and not feel the need to eat. During depressive episodes, individuals may overeat and crave comfort foods.
Lack of Concentration
During both manic and depressive episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder may have difficulty concentrating or completing tasks. This can impact their work, school, and personal relationships.
Fatigue is a common symptom of bipolar disorder, especially during depressive episodes. Individuals may feel exhausted and lack energy, even after a full night’s sleep. They may lack the energy to complete regular daily activities, including basic hygiene, cleaning and eating. Even during manic periods, a person may experience fatigue, as mania tends to bring on restlessness and insomnia.
During depressive episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder may withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves from friends and family. Activities that they used to enjoy may seem like too much effort, whether due to social anxiety or lack of energy. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and sadness.
Thoughts of Self-Harm
During depressive episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder may experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These thoughts should always be taken seriously and addressed immediately.
Individuals with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of substance abuse, especially during manic episodes. Substance abuse can worsen bipolar symptoms and lead to a vicious cycle of mood swings and addiction.
When to Speak to a Doctor or Therapist
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it is important to speak to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed with medication and therapy, but a proper diagnosis is essential for treatment. Additionally, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is important to seek immediate help from a mental health professional or crisis hotline.