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What Are the 7 Signs of Bipolar Disorder?

Medically Reviewed on 1/26/2022

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior. Here are 7 warning signs to look out for

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder characterized by alternating episodes of elevated mood (mania) and episodes of low mood (depression) that can last from days to weeks. 

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, causing difficulty leading a normal life. Here are 7 warning signs to look out for.

7 signs of bipolar disorder

  • Restlessness: During a manic phase, you may be visibly restless or agitated. This may manifest itself as inability to sit still, fidgeting, tapping fingers, or starting and stopping things abruptly.
  • Irritability: You may find yourself easily irritated or have sudden outbursts of rage for no particular reason. This may be accompanied by feelings of agitation and anxiety.
  • Impulsive behavior: Exaggerated feelings of confidence can lead you to indulge in risky behaviors such as gambling, going on spending sprees, or having unprotected sex.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: Bipolar disorder can change your sleeping habits. A manic episode can cause a decreased need for sleep, while a depressive episode can make you want to stay in bed all day.
  • Difficulty concentrating: You may experience racing thoughts that flit from one idea to the next, or you may feel like you are in a mental fog and find it difficult to think clearly.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family: During a depressive episode, you may struggle to connect with others and avoid the people around you, whether it’s ignoring their calls or canceling your plans with friends and family.
  • Suicidal thoughts: If you have reccurent thoughts about suicide or a precoccupation with death, you may be in a depressive phase. Seek professional help as soon as possible.
  • What are the different types of bipolar disorder?

    Different types of bipolar disorder include:

    • Bipolar I disorder: Includes episodes of extreme mood swings from mania to depression that last for at least 7-14 days. There may also be episodes of depression with other mixed features.
    • Bipolar II disorder: Involves milder episodes of mania that alternate with periods of severe depression.
    • Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia): Brief periods of hypomanic symptoms alternating with brief periods of depression that last for 2 years in adults and 1 year in children and adolescents.
    • Other specified and unspecified bipolar and related disorders: Describes symptoms that do not match the other classifications and include mixed features (occurrence of simultaneous symptoms of opposite moods during manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes) and rapid cycling (at least 4 or more episodes within a year).

    What causes bipolar disorder?

    The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Possible risk factors include:

    • Genetics
    • Hormonal imbalance
    • Severe trauma
    • Certain medications
    • Substance misuse

    Bipolar disorder can also coincide with other diseases such as depression with psychosis or schizophrenia.

    How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

    Diagnosis and treatment can help people with bipolar disorder lead healthy and active lives. Diagnostic procedures may include:

    • Physical exam. Your primary care physician (PCP) may conduct a physical examination and request clinical tests to rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
    • Psychiatric assessment. Your PCP may recommend you to a psychiatrist, who will ask you about your mood swings and behavior patterns. You may also be asked to complete a self-assessment or questionnaire.
    • Mood charting. You may be asked to keep a daily record of your mood swings, sleep patterns, or other factors that could assist with diagnosis and treatment.
    • Symptoms. Your therapist may compare your symptoms with the criteria for bipolar and related disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, distributed by the American Psychiatric Association.


    What Is Bipolar Disorder? Symptoms, Manic Episodes, Testing
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    How is bipolar disorder treated?

    Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires management that may include a combination of treatment methods. Treatment options may include:

    • Medications. Medications used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, second-generation (atypical) antipsychotics, medications that target sleep or anxiety, and antidepressant medication to treat depressive episodes.
    • Psychotherapy. Your PCP may recommend a psychotherapy treatment program: 
      • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): IPSRT centers around adjusting day-to-day activities, such as sleeping, waking, and eating routines. Having a steady routine allows for better mindset management. 
      • Cognitive behavioral therapy: The goal is to recognize negative thought patterns and behavior and replace them with positive ones.
      • Psychoeducation: Learning about the symptoms of bipolar disorder can help you and your loved ones better understand the condition.
      • Family therapy: Support and open communication can help you and your loved ones recognize and manage episodes.
    • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT involves brain stimulation and can provide relief from symptoms, only used in severe cases.
    • Hospitalization. If you are at risk of hurting yourself or others, you may need to be hospitalized.

    Lifestyle changes can also help reduce bipolar disorder symptoms by improving mood:

    • Regular sleep
    • Balanced diet
    • Exercise
    • Avoiding alcohol

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    Medically Reviewed on 1/26/2022


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