Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
It’s easy to characterize Bipolar disorder as “highs and lows.” While that is an apt description, it can also be an oversimplification.
The highs and lows that a neurotypical person experiences often come from life experiences, joys, and failures. However, the highs and lows of a Bipolar person may be dramatic and random.
Beyond that, manic episodes are not the typical “happy” moods that you may experience at enjoyable points in your life. Sometimes mania can be scary as if you are charged with electricity and out of control. Manic episodes can cause you to make life-altering decisions. Some people with Bipolar have reported stories of driving recklessly or taking out huge payday loans that they know they won’t be able to pay back. These are the decisions that a person with Bipolar may come to woefully regret during following depressive episodes, which can sometimes last for months.
Bipolar can be dangerous, and it goes far beyond the typical happy and sad mood swings that most people live with.
Bipolar is presents differently depending on the person. No two human experiences are the same and that rule also applies to people with Bipolar disorder. Two people may have different experiences with their symptoms of Bipolar 1. In fact, Bipolar disorder symptoms in females may dramatically differ from Bipolar disorder symptoms in males. This article will establish a definition of Bipolar disorder and its symptoms and speak about the differences in symptoms between various demographics of people diagnosed with Bipolar.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health disorder in which an individual’s mood changes at irregular times. Sometimes people may experience euphoria and extreme joy, while other times, they feel sad and hopeless.
Worldwide, Bipolar disorder affects 1-2% of people, with men and women having equal chances of getting the disorder. It typically develops during a person’s late teens or early adult years, with 50% of people with Bipolar disorder having symptoms before turning 25.
If you or a loved one are potentially exhibiting Bipolar symptoms, then understand that the disorder can be managed, and the individual has the power to control their episodes. If you want to know more about Bipolar disorder, including the symptoms, different types, and treatment options, then continue reading.
What Are The Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder?
The symptoms of Bipolar disorder are broken down into two categories: manic and depressive episodes. Individuals experiencing manic episodes may enjoy the highs of their life. They feel all-powerful, smart, and bursting with creativity. On the other hand, during depressive episodes, they will go through weeks of difficult emotions. These periods may include feeling hopeless or lacking energy.
Manic and depressive episodes are vastly different from the typical highs and lows people experience during their lives. These are severe episodes that can last from a day to a few weeks. Signs of Bipolar in adults include the following:
Bipolar Manic Symptoms:
- Feeling euphoric, or being energetic and restless.
- Excess irritability
- Being very talkative, or racing from one thought to another without stopping
- Sleeping little without feeling tired and waking up early to work on personal projects
- Investing in risky financial ventures without considering consequences
- Delusions of grandeur, such as thinking of oneself as a celebrity
- Lack of attention and concentration, including staring off into space instead of completing important work
- Change in weight or appetite
- Going on spending sprees
A milder form of the manic episode is hypomania, which causes a person to feel good about themselves and become more productive in their work. Hypomania is usually far less severe than mania. However, hypomania sometimes leads to a full manic episode. Thus, they should not be taken lightly.
Bipolar Depressive Symptoms:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Lacking the drive to accomplish one’s goals or work, such as putting off an important work assignment for days at a time
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and shame
- Low self-esteem
- Withdrawing or isolating from friends and family, including avoiding contact with family during reunions or holiday parties
- Change in sleep schedule, such as excessive sleeping
- Fatigue, or feeling sluggish
- Believing that one has nothing to say during a conversation
- Having illogical thoughts, such as thinking that somebody is watching them or thinking that somebody has ill intentions for their loved ones
It may be easier to think of Bipolar disorder as a range of moods. For a few weeks, an individual may feel happy about his or her life. They may feel that they are in high spirits and believe that they can accomplish anything. But that mood can quickly change, resulting in a depressive episode.
These episodes can vary in effect, from mild to severe. Bipolar characteristics may also be linked to seasons as well. For instance, manic episodes may occur in the spring, while depressive episodes could happen during the fall or winter months.
If you believe that yourself or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of Bipolar disorder, consult a medical professional. One way to discover if you may have Bipolar disorder is by taking a short quiz then talking over your results with an online or in-person counselor. Take this Bipolar symptoms test to see if you should consult with a doctor.
What Are Bipolar Symptoms In Teens?
For children and teens, Bipolar disorder can manifest itself in a variety of ways. For instance, if children and teens are in a manic phase, they may make risky choices in much the same way as adults.
The signs of Bipolar in teens during a depressive episode may include a desire to run away from home or isolate themselves from family and friends. The best way to help your child with Bipolar disorder is by showing your support and listening to their troubles, then encouraging them to speak with a mental health professional if the symptoms persist.
Never judge or berate your child for their mental health symptoms. Instead, do your best to create a space in which they feel comfortable talking with you, where they can grow and heal, knowing that they have your unconditional, patient love.
Types Of Bipolar Disorder
There are four specific patterns of Bipolar disorder, with each ranging in effect and length of time. Certain patterns are also more common in men or women as well. The types are as follows:
Bipolar I Disorder
- This type is defined by having either mixed or manic episodes that last at least seven days. The symptoms of Bipolar I may be so severe that the individual requires hospital attention. The person also usually has depressive episodes, but these are not needed for diagnosis. Bipolar I affects men and women equally.
Bipolar II Disorder
- Individuals experience hypomania, but then switch to depressive episodes, which are more severe than in Bipolar I disorder. There are no instances of full manic episodes. Bipolar II disorder is more common in women than in men.
- People with cyclothymia shift between hypomania and depressive episodes for at least two years in adults, one year in adolescents. The effects of both episodes are less severe than in Bipolar I and II disorder, but the cyclothymic disorder can still impact how a person functions and copes.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
- Those with rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder have four or more mania episodes, major depression, hypomania, or mixed symptoms within one year. However, if a person has rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder, it is highly recommended to receive an evaluation by a psychiatrist. Lastly, more women are affected by the rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder than men.
People with Bipolar disorder also have a higher chance of risk of other medical issues. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease
Furthermore, it is common for people to initially be diagnosed with a mood disorder before they are diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. According to Dr. Tanvir Singh and Dr. Muhammad Rajput, 69% of people with Bipolar disorder are initially misdiagnosed. For instance, depressive episodes of Bipolar disorder share many traits with unipolar depression, thus causing people to confuse the two. It is important to educate yourself on the different effects of Bipolar disorder and speak openly about your symptoms.
Differences Between Men And Women
There are many commonalities between men and women regarding Bipolar disorder, such as the disorder's impact on their life. However, there are Bipolar symptoms in women that do not appear in men. Additionally, certain parts of Bipolar disorder are more common for either men or women. Signs of Bipolar in women and men include the following:
- Onset for Bipolar disorder is typically earlier than women
- Not only are manic episodes more common for men, but they may also be more prone to exhibiting aggressive behavior during them as well
- Men are more likely to have co-occurring substance abuse disorders
- Men are less likely to seek professional help for the disorder
- Onset for Bipolar disorder occurs later for women than it does for men
- Depressive episodes are more common for women
- Bipolar symptoms in females that appear more than in men include feelings of hopelessness and lack of energy
- Women may be at a higher risk for rapid-cycling disorder than men
- Alongside Bipolar disorder, women may be at more risk for co-occurring disorders that involve anxiety, PTSD, and insomnia
- Women may be more likely to experience seasonal mood changes
Women with Bipolar disorder are also likely to experience an episode after giving birth, especially a depressive episode. Research suggests that if they experience one episode after their pregnancy, they are likely to experience more episodes.
Additionally, there is a chance for women with Bipolar disorder to develop postpartum psychosis, the symptoms of which include paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings, and delusions. It is a rare phenomenon, but it is considered a medical emergency, and anyone experiencing these symptoms should go to the hospital as soon as possible.
For Treatment Plans, Speak With A Mental Health Professional
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Bipolar disorder; however, there are multiple ways for people with Bipolar disorder to manage it and live a happy and fulfilling life.
While keeping in mind that only a certified mental health professional can recommend treatment plans, here are a few of the most common options:
- Psychotherapy is a useful treatment option as it strives to allow individuals to identify and control troubling thoughts and emotions. This treatment option is also available for loved ones since they can learn how to better support people with Bipolar disorder.
- Constant exercise, such as jogging and swimming, can help negate feelings of depression and hopelessness and promote better sleeping patterns. Make sure to check with a doctor before committing to any exercise regime.
- People with Bipolar disorder may consider keeping a life chart. They can use life charts to record their daily mood, symptoms, sleeping patterns, and life events. These charts can then be taken to a doctor, in which they use the data to determine the best treatment option for the individual.
If you or a loved one has Bipolar disorder or believe that someone close to you is exhibiting symptoms of the disorder, then schedule an appointment with a medical professional and get their opinion. It can be upsetting to watch a loved one deal with Bipolar disorder. However, there are ways for them to manage it.
Always remember that you can learn to control your life. You have the power to manage Bipolar disorder and create a life that you want to live in. In addition, if you are a loved one of someone with Bipolar, you play an important role in their management of the disorder. Through your support, they can develop a deeper sense of empowerment, understanding, and love.