Common Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Moods are a common emotion in life. You may be happy and ecstatic one minute and then become gloomy and sad the next and that’s okay. However, sometimes these mood swings take on dramatic proportions resulting in “great highs” and “deep lows”. These can be the first symptoms of bipolar disorder. They become so intense that they prevent a person from functioning normally. These episodes of highs and lows can happen erratically or last for months and days. Such extreme mood swings are indicative of a mood disorder called bipolar disorder or manic depression.

According to Wikipedia, bipolar disorder is “a mental disorder characterized by periods of elevated mood and periods of depression.” During periods of “high” called mania or hypomania, a person will feel abnormally happy and energetic, behave irritably, make irrational decisions and avoid sleeping. On the other hand, during the periods of “low,” or bipolar depression, the person may cry constantly, avoid eye contact and have a dark and morbid view of life. In between these exaggerated highs and lows, a person will experience completely normal moods.

Although easily treatable, recognizing the symptoms of bipolar disorder is difficult. People with bipolar disorder don’t always display the same symptoms. Some people exhibit more episodes of mania, while others suffer more lows, while some alternate between the two. Some people experience these mood swings often while others have only a few during their lifetime. Therefore it is extremely important to know the bipolar disorder symptoms so you can watch out for it.

There are many types of bipolar disorders including Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymic disorder, and others. People affected by bipolar disorder will usually experience cyclical episodes of mania and depression, hence the term manic depression. People affected by Bipolar II experience greater episodes of depression. Their periods of highs are less intense (also called hypomania).

People who experience a milder form of bipolar disorder are said to be affected by Cyclothymic disorder. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can develop in just about anyone and usually strikes first during teenage years or in the early 20s. People whose family members have bipolar are at greater risk of being affected.

Common Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder or manic depression in manic and hypomanic episodes include:

  • Speaking loudly and rapidly such that others have difficulty keeping up.
  • Displaying extremely high levels of energy and taking on more work or projects.
  • Getting a rush of ideas and not being able to control or slow down thoughts.
  • Not sleeping enough and still not feeling tired.
  • Behaving impulsively and making irrational decisions.
  • Spending lavishly, gambling or investing in risky activities.
  • Having impulsive sexual tendencies.
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol.
  • Exhibiting inflated self-esteem and have unrealistic belief’s about one’s ability.
  • Inability to complete tasks. As they are easily distracted they move on to something else before finishing the current projects.
  • Some people with bipolar disorder exhibit psychosis, hearing things that aren’t there.

Bipolar depression usually lasts longer than bipolar mania. It also takes much longer to recover from episodes of bipolar depression that it does to recover from manic episodes. In depression, symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and tearful for most of the day.
  • A notable loss of interest in activities that used to be fun.
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain characterized by a huge decrease or increase in appetite.
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Being highly agitated or displaying slow movements.
  • Feeling tired and experiencing a loss of energy.
  • Being unrealistically pessimistic and guilty.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Having difficulty making decisions.
  • Thinking about death or suicide.

The good thing about Bipolar disorder is that even if it is a chronic condition, it is treatable. However, it is not a condition that goes away of its own accord. People with bipolar disorder can get suicidal tendencies and if left untreated it can lead to serious consequences.

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of bipolar disorder discuss it with your family doctor, do an assessment and find a mental health professional to seek treatment. You can also check out this handy guide from the National Institute of Mental Health to learn more about the symptoms of mania and bipolar depression in adults.


  1. Thanks for the post. It is so important to be aware of your symptoms so you can detect any episodes quickly and be able to get treatment when things go from bad to worse. I had an appointment a couple weeks ago and she recognized I was hypomanic. By being aware that I was easily distracted, I was talking fast and finding it difficult to doze off we believe we stopped a major episode in it’s tracks.

    1. I am bipolar it’s herededitory….my eldest sister was diagnosed as manic depressive years ago
      I was diagnosed 20 years ago
      I’m under psychiatric treatment but although its controlled I still have my manic & depressive episodes
      Yes the lows last much longer than my incredible highs

  2. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

    Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but it can be treated effectively over the long-term.

    Nicely written article.

  3. It is now after reading the symptoms that I realize im bipolar. I did not know after so many years. Most of the symptoms I read here lead to my illness. I cant seem to make proper decisions bwt my future and I keep changing courses that I didnt finish. help

  4. I thought i had bipolar disorder as i am very happy and make jokes to make my brian happy but it was health anxity and autism doing it. i was chatting to other people with bipolar and then i know did not have this disorder. My psycologist said richard thinks becase his ant my have it so have a family history of bipolar disorder which is untrue funny enouth. It just health anxiety.
    exeter uk

  5. There is someone in my life I love very deeply for who has bipolar and it very difficult at times to deal with her, help me to really understand her.

  6. After being diagnosed with “clinical depression” at 16 and then “bi-polar” at 30 years old, Retrospectively, i can now see clear patterns of my behaviour during my manic /high or more commonly extreme low phases. This illness requires daily attention and regular self “check- in’s” to prevent a full scale manic or depressive episode. I find that with me, the earlier I recognise it, the more that I can do to rebalance myself .

  7. I just found out my husband was diagnosed. I have been going through so much with him, he begged me to stay but then asked for a divorce. I don’t want to divorce him, so I refuse to file unless there has been infidelity I have yet to learn of. I love him though. But I want to help him in the most effective way possible, so how?

  8. I’m ashamed to admit I suffer from this…it has been damaging to my relationships. People don’t understand or think it’s not real and that it’ll go away on it’s own, no professional help needed.

  9. l have been in a relationship with a beautiful woman in her late forties .l started to notice patterns in her behavior and l couldn’t understand that she would be loving and caring one week or so and then suddenly turn on me and say she hates me then the day she loves me again.l Googled Bipolar symptoms and it all made sense so l asked her if she had Bipolar she admitted she did but she refuses to treat her condition so after learning about the condition l tried to stay in the relationship and give her space when the lows were happening . lt didn’t work out

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