There are more than 10 million people in the United States diagnosed with some form of bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Bipolar disorder usually appears in early adulthood; if it goes untreated, it can get worse over time. With treatment, however, bipolar disorder can be managed and symptoms can improve, enabling people to lead productive, normal lives.
Signs Of Bipolar Disorder: Mania, Hypomania And Depression
There are several types of bipolar disorder, but all involve drastic changes in mood, energy, and behavior that cycles between episodes of mania and depression. The manic episodes and depressive episodes are called mood episodes, and they are significantly more intense and extreme than the moods people typically experience. A mood episode may last for several days to several weeks, with a person displaying symptoms most of the day almost every day.
Depressive episodes may vary in the degree of severity, but symptoms can include:
- Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty
- Sleep issues—sleeping too much or struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep
- Fatigue and low energy
- Appetite change or weight gain
- Trouble concentrating and remembering
- Feeling incapable of doing anything or making decisions
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Thoughts of dying or suicide
Manic episodes can include symptoms like:
- Feeling wired, elated, or “on top of the world”
- Having high energy and needing less sleep
- Appetite change or eating less
- Speaking quickly and changing topic frequently
- Racing thoughts and trouble focusing
- Feeling invincible and capable of anything
- A sense of inflated importance and power
- Taking risks like driving fast, engaging in sex with many partners, gambling or giving away money or possessions and binge drinking or eating, etc
In some cases, people experience less extreme manic episodes called hypomania; during these episodes, people feel energetic, happier than usual, and productive and capable. The symptoms are not as intense as those experienced during a manic episode, but the energy and activity level may be noticeably different to loved ones and markedly different from depressive episodes.
Each person will manifest symptoms of bipolar disorder in a unique way, and the type of bipolar disorder they have can affect the degree of the symptoms they experience. There are also differences in the expression of bipolar disorder between men and women, as well as adults and teens. The key to recognizing signs of bipolar disorder is that mood episodes are noticeably different from the normal range that the average person may experience.
Some people may have bipolar symptoms that do not fit the diagnostic requirements of these three bipolar disorders as they are defined; in these cases, the diagnosis will be “other specified and unspecified” bipolar disorders. Their symptoms may still be clinically significant and marked by mood episodes but in ways that do not adhere to the requirements of bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
A primary care provider may recognize signs of bipolar disorder during an annual checkup, or a loved one might notice mood changes over time and suspect something is wrong. Your doctor may order lab tests to rule out other possible conditions that may present with similar symptoms to bipolar disorder.
Once other conditions are ruled out, you should speak with a therapist to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose bipolar disorder by using a diagnostic survey or speaking with you about your symptoms to determine the severity and type of bipolar disorder.
Treatment For Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is best treated with a mix of lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, routine, talk therapy, and medication. Only a psychiatrist can accurately diagnose and prescribe medications to treat bipolar disorder; determining the correct prescription dosage requires consistent monitoring and check-ins.
We know that, for most people, a combination of talk therapy and medications is the best way to address bipolar disorders. That’s why we remove barriers to both of these treatments by offering you remote access to top-rated, board-certified psychiatrists–so you can get the care you need from the comfort of your home.
With My Psychiatrist, you can complete your intake and therapy sessions with your psychiatrist online through telepsychiatry services. We are just one phone call (or a few clicks) away–contact us to see how we can help you start to feel better as soon as possible.