We all have our ups and downs in life, but if your highs and lows seem to be more extreme than most people—and if your sleep and appetite are noticeably affected—you may be experiencing Bipolar Disorder or Cyclothymia.
When left untreated, severe Bipolar Disorder can end up negatively interfering with how you manage your everyday activities, such as maintaining your relationships with friends, family and partners, and succeeding at work and school.
Bipolar Disorder (formerly called manic-depression) can consist of episodes of extreme highs, a.k.a mania, less pronounced highs, hypomania, or extreme lows, often referred to as depressive episodes.
Any of these phases can last for weeks or even months on end.
Here are some common symptoms that you should be on the lookout for:
BIPOLAR DISORDER SYMPTOMS
**Please note, only a mental health professional is qualified to diagnose these disorders, and diagnoses require a constellation of symptoms and other clinical thresholds to be valid. In other words, just because you experience some of these symptoms does not mean you have the disorder or meet criteria for a diagnosis. Please schedule an appointment with one of our anxiety experts if you have concerns.**
The telltale symptoms of a manic episode (lasting for at least a week) or hypomanic episode (lasting for four days) look a lot like this:
- Inflated self-esteem or feelings of grandiosity
- Being more talkative than usual
- Racing and obsessive thoughts
- Getting easily distracted
- A decreased need for sleep (feeling rested after only getting a few hours of sleep)
- Increase in goal-directed activity (socially, at work or school, or sexually)
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g. unrestrained buying sprees, gambling, excessive drinking or sexual indiscretions)
The symptoms of a depressive episode look a lot like this:
- A depressed mood, in which you feel hopeless or extremely down or empty
- Insomnia (not being able to sleep at all), or conversely, sleeping excessively
- Loss of interest in activities that you once used to enjoy doing, also called “anhedonia”
- Lack of ability to concentrate on your everyday tasks
- Feelings of tiredness and extreme physical fatigue
- Feeling as if you are worthless
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide*
*Please call 911 immediately if you are having suicidal thoughts.*
Interesting fact: many people don’t realize there are several types of Bipolar Disorder, some less severe than others: Type I, Type II, and Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia).
All of these forms of Bipolar Disorder are characterized by periods of depressive symptoms alternating with periods of manic or hypomanic symptoms.
Bipolar Type I Disorder is marked by a manic episode that can last at least a week or more, and can be extreme, often leading to psychosis or a break from reality.
This manic episode is usually followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes, the latter of which can last two weeks or more.
With Bipolar Type II Disorder, you experience both hypomanic and depressive episodes.
However, what differentiates Bipolar Type II Disorder from Bipolar Type I Disorder is that you do not experience the full manic episodes, which are longer and tend to be more severe.
Finally, with Cyclothymic Disorder, you might have less extreme hypomanic or depressive symptoms for two years if you’re an adult, and just one year if you’re younger.
These symptoms tend not to be as severe as typical hypomanic and depressive episodes.
Helpful hint: Bipolar episodes are also known as mood episodes.
MIXED MOOD EPISODES AND RAPID CYCLING BIPOLAR DISORDER
Within these mood episodes, the mania or depressive symptoms last throughout the day, every day, for weeks—unless you’re experiencing a “mixed episode” or rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder.
These mood “episodes with mixed features,” cause you to experience symptoms of both manic and depressive episodes within a short period of time, rather than as discrete episodes. This may also indicate a rapid cycling subtype of Bipolar Disorder.
Other feelings or symptoms that you may notice during a manic episode include irritability, insomnia, feeling like you are “high,” “jumpy,” or “wired,” racing thoughts, talking really fast, engaging in high-risk activities—sex, theft, gamblinc, etc—or feeling like you are extremely talented and powerful.
On the flipside, when you’re in a depressive episode, you may experience feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, restlessness, and you may feel like it’s hard to complete simple everyday tasks or experience pleasure from activities that you once enjoyed.
The exact cause of Bipolar Disorder is still a mystery.
Come on, scientists!
But there are possible causes and situations that may trigger the first episode of hypomania, mania, or depression.
We’re talking about genetics, environmental factors, or going through a traumatic and stressful event.
Bipolar disorder frequently occurs alongside other psychological disorders, such as anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).
It is extremely important to receive help for Bipolar disorder because it can drastically affect your life if it is left untreated.
At its worst, I can lead you to a dangerous path of drug and alcohol abuse, suicidal attempts, psychosis, the inability to maintain a job, and even homelessness.
To be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, you must experience a period (or episode) of mania or hypomania, followed by an episode of depression.
Please see our dedicated depression page for more information on symptoms.
OUR THERAPY METHODS FOR BIPOLAR DISORDER
The good news is, therapy can successfully alleviate all of these disorders by helping you minimize the effects of these mood episodes in your life, identify and change underlying thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to your mood disorder, and provide you with strategies to decrease discomfort while restoring an overall sense of peace.
To experience true and lasting joy in our life, we must face and conquer our pain by healing our underlying trauma and confronting our fears.
See the About Therapy page for a deeper look into this process.
Our evidence-based, scientifically proven interventions are demonstrated by research to be effective for overcoming mood disorders.
Through treatment techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and Psychodynamic Therapy, we can help you take the correct direction in making the lifestyle changes that can allow you to manage your Bipolar Disorder and heal from the often dramatic blows it takes to your self-trust, relationships, and functioning.
Learn more about our empirically based therapy modalities by visiting our Methods page.
WANT TO TALK? SPEAK WITH A BIPOLAR DISORDER EXPERT NOW
If you are experiencing symptoms, you should reach out to a professional therapist as soon as possible.
If you have any questions, contact one of our bipolar specialists for a free consultation any time.