We all have our ups and downs, but if you experience severe changes in mood, energy, sleep and the ability to cope with daily responsibilities, you might be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in moods that alternate between “highs” (or mania) and “lows” (or depression). These manic and depressive periods vary from person to person and can last from just a few hours or days to several weeks or even months. Sometimes these periods of intense emotions are so brief and so far between that many people may not be aware that they have bipolar disorder. Sometimes these cycles are so strong and close together that it is very difficult to maintain a normal life and have normal relationships.
People with bipolar disorder shift between feelings of depression and feelings of mania, with normal periods in between. Sometimes it’s easier to identify these depressive episodes because depression is more widely talked about. The depressive phase of bipolar disorder shares many similarities to regular depression, including prolonged sadness, inability to concentrate, loss of energy, difficulty sleeping, and thoughts of suicide. People with bipolar depression, however, tend to have more unpredictable mood swings, more irritability and guilt, and more feelings of restlessness. They also tend to move and speak slowly, sleep a lot and gain weight.
Manic episodes are often harder to identify because many people don’t understand what the symptoms of mania are. If you experience episodes of depression followed by the following symptoms of mania, you may have bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Sign 1: Abnormal or Excessive Elation or Energy
Mania is more than simply feeling good or euphoric. During manic episodes people can be described as being frantic, hyperactive or over-excited.
Bipolar Sign 2: Racing Thoughts and Speech
Oftentimes a person’s thoughts and speech are so fast during manic episodes that their speech gets pressured, loud and hard to understand. These racing thoughts make it difficult to concentrate on any one thing at a time and are often broken up into fragmented tangents during speech.
Bipolar Sign 3: Grandiose Thinking
Grandiosity is a term used to describe an exaggerated sense of one’s importance, power, identity or knowledge. During a manic episode, a person may have grandiose notions, such as that they are better at something than they really are or that they can accomplish a difficult or series of tasks in a very short period of time. This can cause people with bipolar disorder to be become involved in excessive planning and start multiple activities that they never end up finishing. These grandiose ideas often lead individuals to engage in things such as impulsive spending sprees, reckless driving, and foolish financial investments.
Bipolar Sign 4: Decreased Need for Sleep
During a manic episode, a person will usually wake up several hours earlier than normal and feel full of energy, despite having less sleep. Sometimes the sleep disturbance is so severe that the person may go for days without sleep without feeling tired.
Bipolar Sign 5: Hypersexuality
During manic episodes, a person may become hypersexual. They may experience things such as an increased sex drive and sexual fantasies; make unusual sexual demands on their partner; make inappropriate sexual advances; have affairs; spend lots of money on porn, prostitutes, etc.
If you or someone you love exhibits any of these warning signs of bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek help right away. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment, these symptoms can interfere with the ability to live a normal life. There is no shame in admitting you might be bipolar — only a chance to return to a normal life.