How to Detect Bipolar Disorder in a Loved One

Are you worried that someone you love has bipolar disorder? While only a licensed mental health professional can make a proper diagnosis, it doesn’t hurt to educate yourself about the symptoms of bipolar disorder so you can better understand your loved one and encourage them to seek professional help. Here’s how to detect bipolar disorder and get the help they need.

What is 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.

What are the signs of bipolar disorder?

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. Some of the most common symptoms of mania are:

  • 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.
  • Racing 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

What should I do if I think my loved one has bipolar disorder?

If someone you know 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 your loved one’s ability to live a normal life. And let’s face it — it also interferes with your ability to lead a normal, happy life as well.

Casa Palmera is a renowned bipolar treatment center in California that focuses on traditional bipolar treatments like medications, psychotherapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy, in addition to holistic treatments like yoga and natural/herbal medicines to reconnect the person’s body, mind and emotions.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.