The symptoms of bipolar disorder can sometimes overlap or mimic the symptoms of other mental health conditions like major depressive disorder, making it difficult to tell them apart. So, how do you know if you have bipolar disorder? Here is everything you need to know;
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a brain disorder that causes sudden extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Mood swings associated with bipolar disorder often follow a distinct pattern: a period of abnormally high energy and activity (known as manic episodes), followed by a period of low mood and decreased energy levels (known as depressive episodes) – with a period of stable mood in between.
During a manic episode, a person may feel extremely happy or euphoric, have lots of energy, and engage in risky or impulsive behaviors. A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode but with less severe symptoms.
A depressive episode, on the other hand, can cause a person to feel sad, hopeless, and worthless. They may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, have trouble sleeping or eating, and may even have thoughts of suicide.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are three main types of bipolar disorder, each with its own set of symptoms:
Bipolar I Disorder: This is the most severe form of bipolar disorder. It’s characterized by manic episodes that go on for up to seven days or are so severe to warrant hospitalization. Most people with bipolar I disorder will also experience periods of severe depression, but a diagnosis does not require a depressive episode to be present.
Bipolar II Disorder: This form of bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of hypomania and depression. Hypomania is a short-lived and less severe form of mania. Diagnosis requires the patient to have experienced at least one hypomanic episode and one depressive episode.
Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia): This is a milder form of bipolar disorder with more frequent but less severe episodes of hypomania and depression. The symptoms of Cyclothymia can last two years (or one year in children and adolescents) or longer.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unclear, but experts believe it is caused by dysregulation of brain activity due to an imbalance of brain chemicals or neurotransmitters. This may result from any number of factors, including:
- Genetic predisposition
- Traumatic life experiences
- Chronic stress
- Excessive alcohol and substance abuse
- Sleep deprivation
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on which phase of the illness a person is going through.
Symptoms of Mania:
- Feeling excessively happy or “high”
- Having lots of energy and being unusually active
- Talking more than usual, often with racing thoughts
- Being easily distracted and having difficulty concentrating
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance or feelings of grandeur
- Feeling like one can do anything
- Engaging in risky or impulsive behaviors, such as reckless driving or illegal drug use
- Having trouble sleeping
Symptoms of Depression:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty
- Having little energy and being unusually inactive
- Talking less than usual or not at all
- Having difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
- Eating too much or too little
- Experiencing aches and pains that don’t have an apparent physical cause
- Having thoughts of death, suicide, or self-harm
Bipolar disorder is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening illness that requires professional treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing the above symptoms, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. A qualified mental health professional can help make a conclusive diagnosis and develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.