Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Effects

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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. A person suffering with bipolar disorder experiences two extremes with distinct signs and symptoms:

  • manic episodes (excessive excitement, energy or enthusiasm)
  • depressive episodes

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe and disabling, and frequently contribute to worsening symptoms of addiction or eating disorders in patients with co-occurring disorders. Bipolar episodes are different from the normal swings in feelings or moods that everyone goes through from time to time.

Both mood and behavioral changes can be signs indicating someone with bipolar disorder is experiencing a manic phase or episode:

  • extended periods of feeling overly happy or outgoing
  • extremely irritable mood, agitation, or jumpiness
  • talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • being easily distracted
  • increasing goal-directed activities
  • restlessness
  • little to no sleep for several days in a row without feeling tired
  • having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • behaving impulsively
  • high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, drug or alcohol use, and impulsive business investments
  • suicide attempts

When a person suffering with bipolar disorder enters a depressive phase, the signs and symptoms create a stark contrast with the preceding manic episode:

  • extended periods of feeling worried or empty
  • isolation from friends and family
  • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • feeling tired or slowed down
  • having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • being irritable
  • change in eating, sleeping, or other habits (including anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and other eating disorders)
  • abuse of alcohol and drugs, especially cocaine
  • dependence on sleeping pills
  • thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide

During particularly severe episodes of either mania or depression, a person suffering with bipolar disorder may experience psychosis. Psychosis is the term for a state of detachment from reality, which may be either temporary or prolonged. Bipolar psychosis is characterized by two types of symptoms:

  • Hallucinations: experiencing visions and sounds that don’t exist
  • Delusions: strong attachment to incorrect but extremely compelling beliefs
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