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Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

People who suffer from bipolar disorder will have separate manic, hypomanic, mixed or depressive episodes each having their own distinct symptoms. These episodes can be very distressing for the individual and those around them.

Bipolar disorder is a volatile condition, characterised by extreme highs and lows in mood. As such, it is important to look out for a pattern of extreme or unexpected behaviour and a strain on personal relationships, if you believe you or someone you know may have the disorder.

Associated symptoms of bipolar disorder you may have include insomnia and extreme tiredness due to an overly active mind and difficulty switching off, while manic episodes and their surges of adrenaline can make you feel as though you require little or no rest at all.

Signs of bipolar disorder

Common signs of bipolar disorder can include:

Mania and bipolar disorder:

  • Elevated mood - feeling very happy and excited for a sustained period of time
  • Irritability over small things and focusing on these small issues over a prolonged period of time
  • Increased self-confidence due to surges in happiness
  • More talkative nature although some sentences may not make sense
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Making poor judgement when faced with decision making
  • Reduced need for sleep

Depression and bipolar disorder:

  • Decrease in self-confidence due to the nature of depression and the extreme emotions attached to it
  • Inability to make decisions because of worry and underlying anxiety
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Negative thoughts about life
  • Lack of interest in friends and family can lead to social isolation and can heighten depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Psychotic symptoms of bipolar disorder

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to experience symptoms of psychosis. Some people will however, and they can be particularly vivid and unsettling at the time, and can involve the fixed belief of having superior qualities such as wealth, fame or heightened intelligence despite being untrue.

These symptoms mostly occur during manic episodes, although they can happen during depressive episodes, where you may feel particularly intense feelings of guilt or blame for something you not have even done. When receiving treatment for bipolar disorder at Priory, a combination of talking therapies and medication can help reduce the frequency and severity of these symptoms.

Patterns of bipolar disorder symptoms

When living with bipolar disorder, after a certain period of time you (and others around you) will hopefully begin to observe the fluctuations in your mood and be able to more readily spot the signs and symptoms before and during an episode. It is entirely possible that you may feel your mood returning to ‘normal’ between depressive or manic episodes.

Rapid cycling

Some people have a rapid cycling type of bipolar disorder whereby you may experience discrete mood episodes approximately 4 times a year.

Mixed state

During a mixed state bipolar disorder type, you may find that rather than experiencing extreme symptoms characteristic of depression or mania, you feel a mixture of moods that wouldn’t usually be observed at the same time, including having bursts of energy usually coinciding with manic episodes, yet also feeling a sense of hopelessness or self-doubt.

What are the emotional symptoms of bipolar disorder?

  • Sadness
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hopelessness

While these symptoms are not unique to bipolar disorder and depression, if you have any of these symptoms alongside other types of emotional pain and depressive symptoms, and they are particularly intense or long lasting, then you should seek help.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych) in June 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in June 2020. To view all Priory bipolar disorder specialists, please click here.

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For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding mental health and wellbeing, please call 0800 840 3219 or click here to submit an enquiry form. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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