Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition during which a person experiences extreme mood changes. A person diagnosed with bipolar disorder can feel extreme highs and lows in their mood. These abrupt mood changes can often make their everyday life challenging.

During a manic episode, people with this disorder can feel full of energy, making it difficult to sit still. Conversely, depressive episodes can leave them feeling low, unmotivated, and anxious. People with bipolar disorder often lack self-control and become easily irritable [2].

The roots of bipolar disorder can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece. The famous physician Hippocrates, who laid the foundation for modern medicine, was among the first to mention and document this mental illness. Depression and mania were initially seen as distinct disorders until the mid-19th century. The famous psychiatrist Jean-Pierre merged the symptoms of both mood disorders and gave them a new separate name. Today, bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression.

Bipolar disorder can be treated through medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy. Since it is a mental disorder, there are high chances of relapse. In fact, according to research, throughout five years, 73% of bipolar disorder patients relapsed [1].

With proper treatment, those suffering from bipolar disorder can manage their condition more effectively.

How to Diagnose Bipolar Disorder

Unlike many medical conditions, no one test can diagnose a person with bipolar disorder. To diagnose a person with this bipolar disorder, the process includes a physical exam, a medical history exam, and many psychological assessments.

Bipolar disorder can be diagnosed by;

  • Physical exams and lab tests.
  • Psychological evaluation.
  • Mood charts.
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria for bipolar disorder.
  • Use of screening tools such as the Bipolar Spectrum Diagnostic Scale.
  • Brain Imaging.
  • Genetic testing.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is categorized into many subtypes based on its duration and symptoms. The most common types of bipolar disorder are the following.

1. Bipolar I

This type of bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression or manic depressive disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), at least one manic episode is required to diagnose bipolar I disorder.

An episode of manic depression is characterized by an extremely elevated or irritated mood, high levels of energy, and unusual conduct that causes significant disruption in daily living. Most individuals with bipolar I disorder also experience periods of clinical depression.

Individuals diagnosed with bipolar-I can manage a normal life between these episodes. The symptoms of Bipolar I include the following;

  • Elevated or irritable mood.
  • Increased or decreased need for sleep.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Racing speech.
  • Impulsivity.
  • Grandiosity or low self-esteem.

2. Bipolar 2

This is the type of bipolar disorder during which a person experiences extreme highs and lows. These highs and lows can often disrupt the normal functioning of a person. The diagnosis of bipolar 2 requires a pattern of hypomanic and depressive episodes.

However, the hypomanic episodes are not full-blown. These episodes can be noticed by others but are not as severe as manic episodes, which may involve hospitalization, hallucinations, paranoid thinking, and other disruptions with reality.

Most individuals with bipolar 2 disorder have more depressive symptoms than hypomanic ones. Depression may develop shortly after hypomania fades, and it can last longer. Some people experience periods of normal mood in between episodes of hypomania and depression, while others go for extended periods without experiencing either of these conditions.

A hypomanic episode can continue anywhere from a few days to many months if left untreated. Often, symptoms last for a few weeks to many months.

The symptoms of Bipolar 2 include the following;

  • Loud speech.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Impulsivity.
  • Depression.
  • Hypomanic episodes that are less severe than full mania.

3. Cyclothymia

This is a rare, thus mild type of bipolar disorder. Cyclothymia is characterized by mild depressive and hypomanic episodes. According to DSM-5, in order to diagnose a person with cyclothymia, he/she must exhibit symptoms of hypomania and moderate depression for atleast two years.

Mood changes in cyclothymia are sudden and can occur anytime and without warning. A person with cyclothymia may have short episodes of normal mood (euthymia) lasting less than eight weeks.

Although cyclothymia is treatable with talk therapy and medication, many people with the disorder refuse to seek help, as it is not needed in many cases.

The symptoms of cyclothymia include the following;

  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Anxiety.
  • Racing thought.
  • Difficulty focusing/ increased focus.
  • Increased energy.
  • Mood swings.

4. Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

This type is also known as "bipolar disorder not otherwise specified." It is characterized by symptoms that do not fit into any subtypes of bipolar disorder (bipolar 1, bipolar 2, and cyclothymia). During this condition, a person can experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder, but these symptoms are not enough for a complete diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of unspecified bipolar disorder include the following;

  • Mood swings.
  • Changes in appetite or weight.
  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleep patterns.
  • Impulsivity.
  • Change in energy levels.

Unspecified bipolar disorder can be treated with medications and talk therapy.

Bipolar Disorder Staging

The stages of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. Generally, it shows itself in three stages. Each phase has its own symptoms and can overlap with the other. These stages include;

  • Prodromal stage.
  • Acute stage.
  • Maintenance stage.

Is Bipolar Disorder Hereditary?

To a large extent, one's genetic makeup can predict whether or not one will acquire bipolar disorder. Heritability estimates for bipolar disorder range from 80 to 90%. In fact, many studies of identical twins suggest that genetics play a significant role in the development of the condition [4].

Additionally, recent genome sequencing studies suggest numerous genes can be involved in developing bipolar disorder. Among these are the genes responsible for producing brain proteins and calcium channels. Based on these results, it is likely that many genetic variants influencing various brain biochemical processes contribute to this mental condition [5].

First-degree relatives (i.e., siblings and children) of people with this condition have a higher chance of having it than the general population. The likelihood of inheriting the illness is greater in certain families than in others for reasons that are not fully understood. There is no denying the importance of genetics in determining whether or not a person will develop bipolar disorder, even while environmental circumstances play a role.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. As mentioned earlier, bipolar disorder is characterized by high and low symptoms. It's possible to cycle through several episodes of depression or mania before finally experiencing the opposite mood. These phases can last for a few days, a few months, or even a few years.

Symptoms of a maniac and depressive episode include the following;

  • Melancholy.
  • Decreased energy.
  • Rapid or slow talking.
  • Insomnia.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Restlessness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Difficulty focusing or increased focus.
  • Rapid speech.

What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder can exhibit itself in mood states, i.e., highs and lows. The symptoms for each state are discussed below.

Mania Symptoms (Highs)

It is a state of elevated or extreme mood. Symptoms of mania include the following;

  • High impulsivity.
  • Extreme joy or happiness.
  • Hopefulness and excitement.
  • High sex drive.
  • Decreased sleep.
  • Difficulty focusing.
  • Substance or alcohol abuse.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Weight loss.
  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Rapid speech.
  • Irritable mood.
  • Risk-taking behavior.
  • Increased speech.

Although symptoms of mania and hypomania are the same, it is important to remember that mania is more severe than hypomania, and both conditions differ. Mania can also trigger psychosis.

Depressive Symptoms

Symptoms of a major depressive episode include those that are very extreme. These episodes can cause significant problems in day-to-day activities like engaging in social activities or maintaining relationships. Symptoms of a depressive episode of bipolar disorder include the following;

  • Loss of interest in activities.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems.
  • Fatigue or loss of energy.

What Are Some Signs of Bipolar Disorder?

The main sign of bipolar disorder includes extreme mood swings. These mood swings are followed by episodes of mania, hypomania, and depression. It is also important to note that these symptoms vary from person to person.

Common clinical manifestations of bipolar disorder include;

  • Hypomania.
  • Mania.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
  • Mixed mood episodes.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can overlap with many other mental conditions. It is important to seek help from a psychologist or a psychiatrist to get a proper diagnosis.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder in Women vs. Symptoms in Men

According to the research, both the onset and the progression of bipolar disorder differ in males and females.

Women are more likely to experience mood disturbances that follow a seasonal pattern. The development of the bipolar disorder in women is more likely to occur later in life than in males. The prevalence of manic-depressive episodes, mixed mania, and rapid cycling is significantly higher in women than in males. [6]

Research also suggests that women are more likely to suffer from Bipolar II disorder. This type of disorder is mainly characterized by mostly depressed episodes. Comorbidity of physical and mental problems is more prevalent in women than in men, and it is also more likely to have a negative impact on women's ability to recover from bipolar disorder [7].

Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder

A high amount of research suggests that the following factors can be a major cause for triggering bipolar disorder in many individuals. These factors include;

  • Family history of bipolar disorder and other mental disorders.
  • Substance abuse or addiction.
  • Brain injury or neurological disorders.
  • Use of certain medications or drugs.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Trauma.
  • High stress and anxiety.
  • Child abuse or neglect.

Bipolar Disorder Prevention

Bipolar disorder can be prevented by several interventions. These include the following;

  • Early intervention can greatly help prevent the onset of bipolar disorder. If you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, talk to your health provider immediately.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol and recreational drugs. Alcohol can exacerbate existing symptoms and trigger new ones.
  • Managing stress through meditation and exercise can also lower the chances of bipolar disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder risk can also be reduced by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, frequent exercise, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking.

Prognosis and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

Individuals with bipolar illness have a broad range of prognoses due to the variability in symptom intensity, medication response, and treatment adherence.

Keep in mind that the prognosis improves with early therapy. Relapse is common for those with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Survival Rate

The mortality rate of people suffering from bipolar disorder is 2.6% higher than those not suffering from this mental illness. The average life span of a person suffering from bipolar disorder is 8-12 years shorter than a normal being with no bipolar disorder [8].

Bipolar Disorder Treatment Options

The treatment options for bipolar disorder include the following;

  • Psychotherapy.
  • Light therapy.
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy.
  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Lithium or lamotrigine monotherapy.



Bipolar disorder is a psychological condition that can be managed with proper diagnosis and comprehensive treatment. It is important to speak openly with family members and mental health professionals about challenges associated with the condition. As numerous treatment options are available, it can be possible to find effective solutions that work for your particular situation.