Warning Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme mood changes from high to low and from low to high. Highs are times of mania, and lows are times of depression. Changes in mood may even be mixed, so you may feel excited and depressed at the same time.

Yet bipolar disorder may be sneaky. Symptoms can defy the expected manic-depressive sequence. Infrequent episodes of mild mania or hypomania may go undetected. Depression can overshadow other aspects of the disease. And substance abuse, if it is present, can cloud the picture.

As many as 20% of people complaining of depression to their doctor actually have bipolar disorder. About half of people with bipolar disorder have seen three professionals before being diagnosed correctly. It takes an average of 10 years for people to enter treatment for bipolar disorder after symptoms begin. This is caused in part by delays in diagnosis.

Most people with bipolar disorder have additional psychiatric conditions (such as substance abuse or anxiety) that can make overall diagnoses more challenging.The signs of bipolar disorder can generally be divided into those for mania, and those for depression.

7 signs of mania:

Mania can cause other symptoms as well, but seven of the key signs of this phase of bipolar disorder are:

  • Feeling overly happy or “high” for long periods of time
  • Having a decreased need for sleep
  • Talking very fast, often with racing thoughts
  • Feeling extremely restless or impulsive
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Having overconfidence in your abilities
  • Engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees

7 signs of depression:

Like mania, depression can cause other symptoms as well, but here are seven of the key signs of depression from bipolar disorder:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time.
  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Losing interest in activities that you once enjoyed.
  • Having a significant change in appetite.
  • Feeling severe fatigue or lack of energy.
  • Having problems with memory, concentration, and decision making.
  • Thinking about or attempting suicide, or having a preoccupation with death.

Suicide prevention:

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 100 for India & 911 Foreign or your local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
  • Listen — but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

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