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Bipolar Disorder: Learn to Recognize the Signs

Mental Health > Bipolar Disorder: Learn to Recognize the Signs

Imagine going through changes in your mood and energy that are so severe that the changes impact daily living. Many people experience such radical mood swings due to a brain disorder known as bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness.

Bipolar disorder can damage relationships and make it hard for people afflicted with it to perform consistently at school, at home and at work. Some people with this illness even commit suicide.

Luckily, bipolar disorder can be treated. This disorder usually develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. Some people first show signs of the illness during childhood. Other people develop the disorder late in life.

This is a serious illness that must be managed throughout a person’s life just like any other long-term disease.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

There are many symptoms that can help medical professionals and those close to the bipolar patient to identify the illness.

The disease is characterized by dramatic mood swings that range from extreme highs to extreme lows. When a person is high, he or she might feel like Superman or Superwoman. But highs aren’t always happy times, sometimes people who are in a manic state are irritable and angry. In a depressed state they become sad and hopeless.

When a person is manic, or experiencing a manic episode, he or she might have increased energy or seem to be in a euphoric mood. The person might become irritable, or appear to have racing thoughts and express them by talking fast. Many people who are in a manic state have a hard time concentrating or following through with an idea or conversation. During periods of mania, a person might appear to need very little sleep and have unrealistic beliefs his or her abilities or powers.

People who are in a manic state are known to exercise poor judgment or go on spending sprees without warning. Often sexual drive increases. People suffering from bipolar disorder have a hard time accepting that anything is wrong during these periods of mania. Sometimes abuse of drugs becomes more prevalent during this period.

Periods of depression are in sharp contrast to periods of mania, but have similar devastating effects. Mania occurs for one week or longer. When depression sets in, it is called a depressive episode. 

During a depressive episode the person might feel sad, anxious and empty becoming hopeless or pessimistic. The depressive mood often brings on feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness. Sometimes people in this state lose interest or pleasure in the activities they once enjoyed including sex. In a depressed state the bipolar patient might have decreased energy. Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions are also signs of this kind of depression.

Watch for changes in appetite and unintended weight loss or gain. Chronic pain and other persistent bodily symptoms often accompany periods of depression. Sometimes during a period of manic depression the patient will experience thoughts of death or suicide.

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

It is not yet possible to identify bipolar disorder with a blood test or a brain scan. For that reason, those suspected of having the disease

Getting Better

People with bipolar disorder can become stable with the proper treatment. Long-term preventative treatment is recommended. Treatment is usually accomplished with a strategy that combines medicine and psychosocial treatment.

Mental Health > Bipolar Disorder: Learn to Recognize the Signs