Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental illness known for dramatic shifts in energy and mood swings, lack of concentration, and affects one’s ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are several types of bipolar disorder, not just one type.

Bipolar I displays symptoms known as mania, depression alternating with severely elevated mood. Bipolar II is known to have less severe manic symptoms, called hypomania, which is much more common in people.

Bipolar disorder symptoms can range from subtle to extreme. Temporary events or circumstances could trigger good or bad moods instead of mental illness, making it difficult to properly diagnose bipolar disorder.

Bear in mind, that an individual with a psychiatric condition should only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, but here are some bipolar disorder symptoms and signs you can look out for.


A bipolar person will have the same symptoms as someone who only has depression.

“They’ll have insomnia, tiredness, trouble concentrating, and decreased appetite,” says professor and chairman in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, Mauricio Tohen, MD.

What differentiates a bipolar diagnosis is the period of mania, or elevated mood following depression. According to Dr. Tohen, fluctuations in mood should be discussed with therapists or doctors as the treatment for depression differs from bipolar disorder treatment.

“Prescribing an antidepressant alone in a patient with bipolar depression isn’t recommended because it might send the patient into mania,” says Dr. Tohen. “It’s not as common as once thought, but it does happen.”


With factors like stress or anticipation of something exciting in the near future, periods of insomnia will be common in normal people. A person in a manic phase of bipolar disorder needs significantly less sleep, sometimes none for days on end, and can still feel energetic. A person might sleep more than usual while in a depressive phase.

Dr. Carrie Bearden, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences and psychology at UCLA recommends a regular sleep schedule for people with bipolar disorder.

“It’s not just the lack of sleep, but more importantly it’s the decreased need to sleep” says Dr Bearden.

Good mood

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in a good mood? Why would anyone regard this as a symptom?

“These phases of the disorder may actually be enjoyable to the individual because they allow for increased productivity and creativity that they normally might not experience,” says a psychiatrist and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School in Austin, Texas, Smitha Murthy, MD.

Take caution this could be mania, one of the symptoms of bipolar disorder when there is no apparent cause for it, the mood elevation appear extreme, it lasts for a week or longer, or it appears in combination with other symptoms.

Mania is dangerous, as it affects people when they make crucial decisions relating to finance, sex, and relationships that would not be made in a normal circumstance. It’s the same concept of making bad decisions when one is drunk or high.

This can lead to more severe conditions like psychosis which is when one breaks from reality with symptoms that can include delusions and hallucinations, similar to when a person is really high on something or intoxicated.

A characteristic of bipolar II, hypomania, is harder to differentiate from a generally good mood because the symptoms are milder and more subtle.

Continuously distracted:

Flightiness, stress, or other factors contributes to trouble concentrating, a tendency to hop from task to task, or just being incapable of finishing projects.

According to Dr. Murthy, you might exhibit symptoms of bipolar disorder if you’re so distracted to the point that you can’t get anything done, and it’s interfering with your work or relationships.


“This is one of the trickiest symptoms to recognize since it’s a natural reaction to frustration or unfairness,” says director of the Mood Disorders Program at Samaritan Mental Health in Corvallis, Oregon, Dr James Phelps, who is also the co-author of the book, “Bipolar, Not So Much: Understanding Your Mood Swings and Depression”.

Getting irritated when someone cut in front of your line in a queue is normal. However, “Anger out of proportion to the situation, rising too fast, getting out of control, lasting for hours, and shifting from one person to another, would differentiate the behaviour as a possible bipolar symptom,” he says.

Thinking and Communicating Fast:

Chatting away is not abnormal. However, “ talking so fast that others can’t keep up or understand—especially in phases with other bipolar symptoms, may be hypomania,” says Dr Phelps. If you can’t even keep up with your own racing thoughts, it may be a symptom of mania.


A person with bipolar disorder tends to make rash, impulsive decisions when everything seems to be on a roll, i.e., everything sounds good and feels good, without thinking of “what if” consequences. A simple example would be going on a massive shopping spree using your credit card, without thinking if you can actually pay for all of your purchases when the credit card statement comes in.

Substance abuse:

Bipolar disorder sufferers have a higher rate of substance or alcohol abuse. They may either try to lift themselves out of depression or calm themselves down out of a mania phase.

As usual, do seek help from a qualified medical practitioner, if you suspect you have symptoms of bipolar disorder. In this case, it would be a mental health specialist, i.e., a psychiatrist, who will assess your situation properly and offer suitable treatment methods. Treatment ranges from medications, counselling, substance abuse treatment, or hospitalization in severe cases.

By Aaron
22nd May 19:35

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