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Bipolar Disorder: How to Spot the Signs

You know your body, and you know when things aren’t working the way they should. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint what you’re feeling because you simply don’t understand what your body is going through. If you have or suspect a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, there are certain signs that you can look for.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental illness that causes severe changes in a person’s mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. These changes can go from high to low and from low to high. Highs are periods of mania, while lows are periods of depression. For some, these mood changes can become mixed, causing a person to feel elated and depressed all at the same time.

There are three types of bipolar disorder, each involving clear changes in a person’s mood, energy, and activity levels. From most to least severe, they are:

  • Bipolar I Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days or by manic symptoms that are so severe that it causes a person to seek medical attention. Depressive episodes may occur as well, as can a simultaneous mixture of depressive symptoms and manic symptoms.
  • Bipolar II Disorder is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, which are generally less intense than full-blown manic symptoms.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder, or Cyclothymia, is defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms with periods of depressive symptoms that last for at least 2 years. However, the symptoms typically do not meet the diagnostic criteria for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Bipolar isn’t a rare disorder; in fact, bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans. The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years old, though it can appear as early as childhood or late as one’s 50s. The World Health Organization lists bipolar disorder as the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. Although bipolar is not a rare disorder, it can be hard to diagnose.

Identifying the Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Being bipolar is more than just being “moody.” Individuals with bipolar disorder experience intense emotions, changes in their sleep patterns and activity levels, and uncharacteristic behaviors referred to as “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are not the same as being moody. These episodes often last for full days, sometimes for several days or weeks.

Signs of Manic Episodes May Include:

  • Feeling “up,” “high,” or irritable
  • Feeling “jumpy” or “weird”
  • Increasingly poor sleep hygiene
  • Loss of appetite
  • A need to talk a lot about multiple and random topics
  • The desire to do many things at once
  • Constant racing thoughts
  • The desire to indulge in risky or reckless behaviors
  • Overwhelming feelings of self-righteousness

Signs of Depressive Episodes May Include:

  • Feeling sad, “down,” or hopeless
  • Extreme feelings of restlessness
  • Difficulty falling asleep, waking up, or sleeping too much
  • An increase in appetite or weight gain
  • Feeling lethargic, or like you don’t have anything to say
  • Trouble concentrating
  • The inability to do simple things
  • Little to no interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Decreased or absent sex drive
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

It is possible for an individual to feel both manic and depressive symptoms in the same period. A person does not have to experience all of these symptoms to be struggling with bipolar disorder. Individuals who experience hypomania may feel especially good and be able to keep up with daily life while still experiencing other symptoms.

Treatment and Therapy

If you’re showing signs of bipolar disorder, it’s essential to seek professional assistance from your primary healthcare provider or licensed mental health professional. Obtaining a proper diagnosis allows you to receive effective treatment, helping you live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Although treatment looks different for every person, treatment plans usually consist of a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, ongoing treatment can help you manage your symptoms. Some other ways to cope with bipolar disorder include:

  • Seek treatment and stick to it. Recovery takes time, and while it’s not always going to be easy, effective treatment is the best way to start feeling better.
  • Don’t skip your medical or therapy appointments. Be honest with your doctors so they can make sure you’re receiving the treatment you need.
  • Take your medications as directed.
  • Keep a routine. Make sure your body is getting the nutrients, sleep, and exercise it needs.
  • Learn to recognize the warning signs of your mood swings and share them with your friends and family.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family want to help you. Don’t think you need to do this on your own.
  • Avoid misusing drugs and alcohol.
  • Most importantly, be patient with yourself and give yourself grace.

Living with bipolar disorder can feel exhausting, isolating, and frightening. It can cause us to engage in behaviors that are not healthy for us, such as misusing drugs and alcohol. Those struggling with bipolar disorder can often feel periods of intense emotional highs and lows. These changes in mood can become mixed for some people, causing them to feel both elated and depressed. Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness that can be hard to diagnose, there are ways for you to recognize the signs and find an effective treatment plan that can help you lead a healthy and balanced life. At Achieve Concierge, we have a team of experienced professionals who can help children, adolescents, and adults. If you wonder if you have bipolar disorder or need assistance in managing your bipolar symptoms, reach out to Achieve Concierge today. Don’t wait any longer to get effective help. Call us at (858) 221-0344 today.