Bipolar disorder symptoms are difficult to both cope with and treat. Because bipolar disorder affects behavior across a broad spectrum of symptoms and severity”from clinical depression on one end to extreme mania at the other”care must be taken to identify the particular bipolar disorder symptoms that an individual is dealing with and to what degree he or she suffers from those symptoms.
It is not known exactly what causes bipolar disorder symptoms, but it is clear that genes that code for various brain cell receptors and proteins are likely involved in causing abnormal neurotransmission and neuro-circuitry between various mood centers of the brain. Thus, as one starts to consider some of the common bipolar symptoms, it is important to keep in mind that these symptoms are the manifestations of something that is happening electrochemically in the person’s brain.
As bipolar disorder is characterized by two very extreme types of behavior, there are two sets of bipolar disorder symptoms to consider”one when the individual is experiencing a manic episode and one when he or she is experiencing a major depressive episode. During both episodes there is significant interpersonal or occupational dysfunction.
Bipolar disorder symptoms — manic episodes
The following are the most common bipolar disorder symptoms for individuals experiencing a “manic” period:
- Inflated sense of self or grandiosity
- Decreased need for sleep, with boundless energy
- More talkative than usual or the experience of an internal pressure to keep talking
- Racing thoughts or flight of ideas
- Distractibility and inability to focus
- Increased psychomotor agitation (unintentional and purposeless motions such as pacing around a room, wringing one’s hands and pulling off clothing and putting it back on),
- Impulsivity — Becoming excessively involved in pleasurable activities with high potential for painful consequences (for example, gambling, sexual indiscretion, and buying sprees)
Psychosis, which can include delusions and hallucinations, can sometimes be present during a manic episode.
It’s important to note that clinical diagnosis of a manic episode related to bipolar disorder symptoms requires at least hospitalization or one week of abnormally and persistently elevated or irritable mood.
Bipolar disorder symptoms — depressive episodes
When a person is experiencing bipolar disorder symptoms of depression, that individual will likely display some or all of the following:
- Depressed mood (generally seen as an irritable mood in children and adolescents) most of day
- Significantly decreased interest or pleasure in almost all activities
- Significant weight change (5 percent in one month while not dieting) or change in appetite
- Difficulties falling or staying asleep; or excessive sleeping.
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive and inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or concentrate
- Preoccupation with death; suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts
Like with manic situations, the diagnosis of a depressive episode related to bipolar disorder symptoms requires at least five of the above signs present most days during the same two-week period.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms — Hypomania
In addition to these two primary types of episodes, there are other types that are associated with bipolar disorder symptoms. These are hypomania and what are referred to as œmixed episodes. Hypomania is a less intense level of mania characterized by optimism, periods of unusually high activity and decreased need for sleep. Hypomania by definition never involves psychotic symptoms or is severe enough to require hospitalization. By itself, hypomania may not be particularly alarming, but it can be off-putting, appear odd to others, and may result in alienation and negative consequences as well. The erratic oscillation between hypomania and a depressed state can be unpredictable and problematic and a sign of bipolar disorder symptoms.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms — Mixed Episodes
Mixed episodes are those in which symptoms of mania and depression occur simultaneously. Mixed episodes are often characterized by significant irritability and frustration, and sense the others are incompetent and useless. These can be especially dangerous and are associated with an increased risk of substance abuse, episodes of panic disorder and suicide attempts.
Article content, © Kira Stein, MD, APC. | West Coast Life Center