Warning Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was misdiagnosed with major depression. It’s extremely common for individuals with bipolar to be misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder.

Prior to receiving the correct diagnosis, there were numerous signs I had bipolar disorder that multiple therapists and psychiatrists missed. I’ve spoken before about how both my mom and I tried desperately to voice our concerns but our cries were unheard. My family began to suspect I had bipolar disorder but of course, we couldn’t tell the mental health providers how to do their jobs.

According to WebMD, “As many as 20% of people complaining of depression to their doctor actually have bipolar disorder.”

Oftentimes, many people who have bipolar disorder but are diagnosed with clinical depression receive treatment during a depressive episode and their doctors aren’t aware of any mania/hypomania they may have experienced.

When talking about bipolar disorder, it’s important to discuss the different warning signs and symptoms. 

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar 1 

A person with bipolar 1 must experience manic episodes. These manic episodes last at least 7 days or have symptoms so severe that they require hospitalization. 

An individual with bipolar 1 may also experience depressive episodes but this isn’t required to make a diagnosis. 

Bipolar 2

In bipolar 2, an individual still experiences highs and lows; however, those with bipolar 2 have episodes of hypomania which is a milder form of mania.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder involves shifts in mood like bipolar 1 and 2 but these shifts are less extreme.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

This is diagnosed when a person shows some symptoms of bipolar disorder but doesn’t meet all the criteria for a bipolar diagnosis. 

Regardless of which type of bipolar disorder you’re diagnosed with, it’s still important to know that it’s a severe mental health condition.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder will vary depending on the person; however, symptoms are broken up into two main episodes: mania/hypomania and depression.

Mania Symptoms

  • Elated energy
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Irritability
  • Hypersexuality
  • Impulsive decision making
  • Grandiose delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Distractibility
  • Doing a lot of things at once

Depression Symptoms

  • Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
  • Loss of interest or feeling no pleasure at all
  • Feeling slowed down or restless
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Feeling lonely or isolating yourself from others
  • Thinking about death or suicide

There are times when a person with bipolar may experience both manic and depressive episodes at the same time. This is considered a mixed episode. 

If you think you might have bipolar disorder, the best thing to do is to see a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis. Being diagnosed with bipolar, or any mental illness, can be terrifying. Initially, when I was diagnosed I was angry because I’d spent so much time trying to advocate for myself only to be shut down. Next to anger, I felt scared. I knew very little about what bipolar disorder truly was or what it meant for my future. Thankfully, the psychiatrist who diagnosed me was able to calm my worries. She was part of the reason I knew I’d be ok and we talked about how many people who shared my diagnosis go on to have happy and successful lives. 

Receiving a proper diagnosis gives you the chance to seek treatment so that you can effectively manage your mental illness. Yes, bipolar disorder can take so much away from you but it is possible to be healthy and happy.

For more information on living with bipolar disorder, check out the blog posts listed below.

6 Tips for Dating With Bipolar Disorder

The Truth About Hypersexuality and Bipolar Disorder

12 Things I Want Others to Know About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder and Anger: How to Cope

What a Bipolar Manic Episode Looks Like

Photo by Dazzle Jam: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-with-blue-lips-on-body-of-water-2710063/

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