Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes an individual to be unable to properly function on a daily basis. The extreme mood swings, including emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression), associated with this disorder can result in a number of complications in a person’s life including damaged relationships, poor job performance, and an increased chance for harm as the result of engagement in certain risky behaviors. Professional treatment for bipolar disorder is highly recommended.

Bipolar disorder is categorized into three separate types including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia, all of which are described in more detail below.

Bipolar I:  In order to be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder an individual must experience a manic episode that is causing significant disruption in his or her life. Furthermore, the manic episode may have been preceded by and may be followed by a hypomanic or major depressive episode. The vast majority of individuals with bipolar I disorder will also experience major depressive episodes in their lives, although this is not required for the diagnosis of bipolar I disorder.

Bipolar II: An individual with this type of bipolar disorder experiences recurring mood episodes that consist of one or more major depressive episodes and at least one hypomanic episode. During a depressive episode those with bipolar II disorder will experience significant distress in multiple areas of their lives. The hypomania episodes tend to not cause an individual any impairment.

Cyclothymia: This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by a chronic, fluctuating mood disturbance that involves multiple periods of hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms. In cyclothymia the symptoms never become severe enough to meet the diagnostic criteria for an episode of mania or major depression.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar Disorder and Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring mental health disorders are common among those who are struggling with bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, or cyclothymic disorder. Anxiety disorder is the most common co-occurring disorder among those with bipolar I or bipolar II disorder, while substance abuse disorder or sleep disorders tend to be present in those with cyclothymic disorder. Some of the other most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Panic disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Eating disorders


Bipolar Disorder Statistics

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 2.6%, of adults in the United States suffers from bipolar disorder. This comes out to about 5.7 million adults. While bipolar disorder can affect people of all ages, the average age of onset is estimated to be 25 years.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder

The onset of bipolar disorder is believed by researchers and professionals in the field of mental health to be due to the presence of a number of different factors. These factors are discussed briefly in the following:

Genetic: One of the strongest, as well as the most consistent, risk factor for the development of bipolar disorder is having a family history of this condition. Research has indicated that when a person has a biological parent who is suffering from bipolar disorder, he or she is between 15% and 25% more likely to experience symptoms of this disorder at some point in his or her lifetime.

Environmental: There are a number of environmental factors that can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder in those who have a genetic predisposition to this disorder. For example, being the victim of abuse, experiencing a traumatic event, or constantly being surrounded by a stressful environment can all lead to the development of bipolar disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Personal history of drug and/or alcohol use
  • Presence of a preexisting mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder
  • Family history of bipolar disorder
  • Family history of other mental health conditions
  • Major life changes

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The signs and symptoms associated with bipolar disorder are going to be different for each individual depending upon the type of bipolar disorder that he or she is struggling with. Some of the various types of symptoms that may indicate someone is suffering from bipolar disorder are listed below:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • More talkative than usual
  • Jumping from topic to topic during a conversation
  • Increase in goal-directed behavior
  • Engagement in high risky behaviors
  • Acting impulsively
  • Sudden, unprovoked outbursts of aggression
  • Restlessness
  • Hypersexuality
  • Is frequently absent from work
  • Is socially withdrawn
  • Engagement in self-harming behaviors

Physical symptoms:

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Excessive energy or a complete loss of energy
  • Changes in one’s weight
  • Fluctuations in one’s body temperature
  • Vocal tics or motor tics
  • Heightened states of arousal
  • Teeth grinding

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Flight of ideas
  • Easily distracted
  • Inability to think or concentrate
  • Racing thoughts
  • Memory disturbances
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Extreme shifts in mood
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • False sense of grandiosity
  • Feelings of anger or rage
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Anxiety
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Suicidal ideation


Effects of Bipolar Disorder

When the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder are left untreated, those who are suffering from this disorder are highly susceptible to the development of a number of negative consequences that can greatly impact his or her daily life. Some examples of negative effects that have been known to occur include:

  • Inability to fulfill responsibilities at work
  • Unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Family discord
  • Conflict within interpersonal relationships
  • Development of depression
  • Development of substance use disorder
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Engagement of self-harming behaviors
  • Increased risk for suicide

Our previous treatment option did not seem to help our son's bipolar disorder. After admitting him to Starlite Recovery Center, our son has better ways to handle his symptoms!

– Donna B.