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Symptoms and Signs of Bipolar Disorder


Updated June 10, 2014

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Bipolar disorder: More than just manic depression
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Bipolar has a wide range of symptoms: the intense and often dangerous highs and psychosis of mania, the unrestrained nature of hypomania in both bipolar II and cyclothymia, and the varying degrees of depression. Certain behaviors are characteristic of bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depression). These two articles list the symptoms and signs of manic or hypomanic and depressive episodes in adults with bipolar disorder.

  • Symptoms of Mania
    Mania is a hallmark state in bipolar disorder. An episode of mania can quickly spiral out of control, causing a great deal of disruption and mayhem for the individual and his or her loved ones. Thus, it is important to be familiar with the warning signs of mania. Note: Most of these signs also apply to the hypomanic episodes of bipolar II disorder and cyclothymia - those that don't are indicated.
  • Symptoms of Depression
    Mania/hypomania is the upswing of manic depression, and depression is the downswing. An episode of depression may be very debilitating, often leaving the sufferer with significant problems in functioning. It is an extreme emotional state that impairs daily living, so it is important to be familiar with the warning signs of depression. Here's a look at the common warning signals of bipolar depression, which occurs in both bipolar I and bipolar II disorders and, to a slightly lesser degree, in cyclothymia.

Examples of Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

These two pages demonstrate ways some of the manic/hypomanic and depressive symptoms may occur in the everyday life of someone who has bipolar:

The Danger Signals of Suicide

Suicide is another serious issue for those diagnosed with this disorder. It is estimated nearly 30 percent of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once in their lives. This suicide rate is 20 times that of the general population. Each of us needs to know the warnings signs - the red flags of despair - so we may be prepared to help a friend in crisis, to see the cry for help from a loved one and to seek assistance when our own resources for coping have worn thin.

Additional Adult Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

There can be more to bipolar disorder than just mood swings between mania/hypomania and depression. Adults may experience mixed episodes, rapid cycling, psychosis, and other complications, or they may have a condition where depression is slightly less serious called cyclothymia.

Childhood Bipolar Disorder

Childhood-onset bipolar disorder, or COBPD, is a controversial diagnosis. As of this writing, there are no officially sanctioned symptoms of this illness, and efforts are underway to change the name altogether. Because the only official guidelines for diagnosing bipolar in children are based on the classic adult symptoms, which youngsters aren't likely to display, many children who experience this may be diagnosed with other conditions, such as ADHD. However, leading experts have compiled a list of the symptoms that may be displayed by children who have bipolar disorder.

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

Before diagnosing any form of bipolar disorder, a doctor will look for specific symptoms that fit the profile of manic/hypomanic and depressive episodes. These articles look at the criteria in depth.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms: In Closing

Just as every person on earth is unique, every person with bipolar experiences it in a unique way. Within the broad groupings of manic/hypomanic and depressive symptoms, each person will have his or her own "markers," unique expressions of the illness that help to define that person's personal brand of bipolar disorder.
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