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Bipolar Disorder – Signs, Symptoms, & Definition

bipolar disorder girl tied up on railroad tracks
bipolar disorder girl tied up on railroad tracks

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Bipolar Disorder: How to Recognize It

Some sort of bipolar disorder test may have appeared on your radar at some point, either for yourself or for someone you love. Unfortunately, though we can easily recognize many common bipolar symptoms, there is no such thing as a quick and easy fail-proof medical test (or X-ray, brain scan, MRI) that can result in a reliable bipolar disorder diagnosis.

In fact, it is not uncommon for someone with bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed as something else, such as Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

What is bipolar disorder?

Let’s begin with a working definition. Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depression or bipolar depression) has been classified as a type of mood disorder. Those who live with it are known to swing back and forth from feeling severely depressed and unable to muster the energy to get out of bed some days to feeling energized, creative, sleepless, and invincible (or manic) on others.   

In between bipolar depressive and manic episodes, people with bipolar can enjoy periods of relative stability and “normalcy,” though the extreme volatility in mood is much more serious for them than the common ups and downs that most people go through. The treatment and diagnosis of bipolar disorder requires the attention of a specialist with expertise in mood disorders.

Bipolar Symptoms

If you have ever experienced depression for two weeks or more, if that depression was so severe that it made normal daily activities almost impossible without a lot of effort, if you have lost interest for extended periods of time in activities that typically bring you pleasure (anhedonia), or if a mental health professional has ever suggested that you may have symptoms of bipolar…those are strong indicators that you may indeed have it.

If you have been diagnosed, or suspect that you may be living with it, following are some things you should know.

Recognizing bipolar can be tricky. When someone with bipolar symptoms is on a manic high or going through a “normal” stage, he or she might actually be enjoyable to be around. Or, some people never get too manic on their own, and are depressed more often than not. When antidepressants are prescribed without a mood stabilizer for such individuals, it can send them into a full-blown mania. Over time, the mania followed by the lows can become more noticeable and poignant.

There are more types of bipolar disorder than you might be aware of. The disorder is about more than just mood extremes. Bipolar disorder types are classified as bipolar I, bipolar II (more severe), cyclothymia (more mania with less depression), rapid cycling (four or more episodes within 12 months), or “mixed state” (when depression and mania happen concurrently).

Manic episodes can affect someone in the same way as psychosis. Mania in the context of bipolar are not always merely periods of mood “highs.” Along with the spike in energy and creativity comes less of an inclination to eat properly and get enough sleep, which can lead to delusional thinking or hallucinations, both of which are telltale symptoms of psychosis.

It is treatable, though there’s no known cure. This is a long-term condition with no fail-safe cure, at least not yet. The good news is that with bipolar treatment, the negative effects can be significantly reined in. Between medication (to treat depression and mania, as well as to stabilize the bipolar individual’s mood), lifestyle changes such as exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating, and treatment, there are plenty of approaches for someone with the disorder to take.  

When someone with bipolar symptoms begins to recognize the things and situations that trigger his or her mood swings, it becomes easier to map out a treatment approach. And then, coping and managing the disorder begins to become second nature, as does getting on with your life.  

Having trouble starting a hard conversation about yourself or a loved one having bipolar symptoms? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about bipolar symptoms or feelings of being overwhelmed, we’d like to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.

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