How To Know If You Have Bipolar Disorder
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC, MS. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin specializing in Addictions and Mental Health. She provides therapy to people who struggle with addictions, mental health, and trauma in community health settings and private practice. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 81% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 381,661 times.
What Are Bipolar Disorders
Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. People with bipolar disorder experience intense emotional states that typically occur during distinct periods of days to weeks, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic/hypomanic or depressive . People with bipolar disorder generally have periods of neutral mood as well. When treated, people with bipolar disorder can lead full and productive lives.
People without bipolar disorder experience mood fluctuations as well. However, these mood changes typically last hours rather than days. Also, these changes are not usually accompanied by the extreme degree of behavior change or difficulty with daily routines and social interactions that people with bipolar disorder demonstrate during mood episodes. Bipolar disorder can disrupt a persons relationships with loved ones and cause difficulty in working or going to school.
Bipolar disorder is a category that includes three different diagnoses: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder.
People with bipolar I disorder frequently have other mental disorders such as anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder . The risk of suicide is significantly higher among people with bipolar I disorder than among the general population.
How To Tell The Difference Between Bipolar Lows And Depression
The thing about bipolar lows and depression is that theyre incredibly similar. Both can last for weeks or months, which sometimes makes it difficult to know which condition you may have.
The major thing to keep an eye out for is periods of mania. Sometimes, you dont even realize youre manic because its hard to be introspective at these times. Your ability to be a good judge of behavior is skewed, which is partly why people with mania engage in risky behaviors.
However, there is one form of bipolar depression that is distinct. Sometimes, with bipolar disorder, you can experience symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. You might feel incredibly hopeless, but also agitated and restless at the same time. Youll be incredibly irritable and have racing thoughts, but they may just be thoughts of sadness and guilt.
This type of mixed episode will feel very different from standard depression. You might not be able to even describe how you feel because it keeps changing from one moment to the next. Its possible to be sobbing while simultaneously saying youre the happiest youve ever felt.
Having this type of episode can also put you at a higher risk for suicide. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact 911 or go to your nearest emergency department. IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE, CONTACT 911 OR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LINE AT 1-88-273-TALK .
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What Are The Signs Of Bipolar Disorder
It is common for mania and severe depression to act together creating a rollercoaster of emotions that most people find difficult to deal with. Its important to consider how it might affect your daily life if you suspect having BPD.
You can examine yourself for some of the symptoms by answering a questionnaire online even before getting a professional diagnosis.
The Mood Disorder Questionnaire is an easy way to identify the symptoms of bipolar disorder. If you have answered yes to three or more questions on the MDQ, then you should seek help from a doctor. And if you answer no to all of them, there is little chance of having bipolar disorder.
If you feel like you have bipolar disorder, but your doctor has not diagnosed you with it yet, you can still use the MDQ to check if you are suffering from bipolar disorder.
There are other questionnaires available online that can help you determine whether you have bipolar disorder or not.
Scientists Create Blood Test For Depression And Bipolar Disorder
Depression can cause unexplained aches and pains, which can make it difficult to manage daily activities. You may find it difficult to exercise because of your discomfort.
In addition, if you are experiencing depression, weakness and fatigue are common and may be accompanied by extreme sleepiness or insomnia.
Anxiety associated with bipolar disorder can cause fatigue and irritability. It can also affect your digestion.
Such symptoms are often accompanied by feelings of panic or a sense of impending doom. You may also sweat and breathe faster.
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How Is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed
To diagnose bipolar disorder, your healthcare provider may use many tools, including:
- A physical exam.
- A thorough medical history, which will include asking about your symptoms, lifetime history, experiences and family history.
- Medical tests, such as blood tests, to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as hyperthyroidism.
- A mental health evaluation. Your healthcare provider may perform the evaluation, or they may refer you to a mental health specialist, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist.
To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you must have experienced at least one episode of mania or hypomania. Mental health providers use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose the type of bipolar disorder a person may be experiencing.
To determine what type of bipolar disorder you may have, your mental health provider assesses the pattern of symptoms and how much they affect your life during the most severe episodes.
People with bipolar disorder are more likely to also have the following mental health conditions:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder .
- Substance use disorders/dual diagnosis.
Because of this, as well as the fact that memory is often impaired during mania so people cant remember experiencing it, it can be difficult for healthcare providers to properly diagnose people with bipolar disorder.
Reducing The Risk Of Misdiagnosis
Clinicians can take several steps to ensure they are making an accurate diagnosis. The risk of misdiagnosis is still present, but it can be reduced. If you are working with a doctor or mental health professional, there are a few approaches to your assessment they may use to help them provide the most accurate diagnosis possible.
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How To Treat It
The main ways to treat and manage bipolar disorder include:
- Medications, like mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and sometimes antidepressants
- Action plans to educate you about the disorder. These can help you manage it on your own by helping you know when an episode is coming on.
- Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and family-focused therapy
- Activities that support your treatment, such as exercise and spiritual practices
Talk With Your Doctor
If you think that you or a loved one has signs or symptoms of bipolar disorder, your first step should be to talk with your doctor. Only a trained medical professional can diagnose this disorder, and diagnosis is key to getting proper treatment.
Medication, therapy, or other treatment options can help you or your loved one manage symptoms and maximize quality of life.
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Why Does Depression Happen
Many people living with depression question why they feel this way and want to know what is behind their sadness. Researchers are trying to understand why depression occurs. Various potential causes and risk factors may contribute to the onset of symptoms. As we learn more about depression, depression symptoms may occur for reasons such as:
- Stress or trauma. Life changes, unexpected loss, feeling burned out, or overwhelmed are changes that may trigger depressive episodes.
- Hormone changes or imbalance. Women may experience postpartum depression after childbirth due to body changes. Menopause and menstruation are other situations that may include hormonal imbalance.
- Family genes. A person may have depression if there is a family history or be at risk of developing it if it runs in their immediate family.
- Chemical differences. Physical or biological imbalances in the brain may increase the chances of developing depression.
- Medical conditions or illness. Certain medications, physical or mental conditions could increase depression risk.
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Bipolar Disorder Essential Reads
With bipolar finally recognized, bipolar medications can be introduced to decrease manic-type symptoms, while keeping depression in check. Alongside medications, its important to have therapy focus on the unique challenges facing people with bipolar disorder. Major depression is frequently considered an acute condition because it often can resolve in time, so medications may be discontinued at some point, along with a shorter overall approach to therapy. But bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. Even though its symptoms can come and go in episodes, the genetic nature of the condition means the bipolar patient will need continuing care over the lifespan.
Hirschfeld R. M., Lewis, L., & Vornik, L. A. . Perceptions and impact
of bipolar disorder: How far have we really come? Results of the National
Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association 200 survey of individuals
with bipolar disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 64, 161174.
American Psychiatric Association. . Diagnostic and statistical manual
of mental disorders . Washington, DC: Author, 128-130.
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Tips For Living With Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that doesnt go away on its own. While it can feel overwhelming and isolating at first, an early, accurate diagnosis is the first step toward getting better. Proper treatment, along with support and self-care, helps people with bipolar disorder live healthy, fulfilling lives.
Symptoms Of A Mixed Episode
A mixed episode of bipolar disorder features symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression. Common signs of a mixed episode include depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts. This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide.
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Who Is This Quiz For
This brief, time-saving questionnaire is designed for anyone who thinks they may benefit from an evaluation for bipolar disorder.
The items below will help you determine whether you may need additional help and professional support for the symptoms youve been experiencing.
A mental health professional can also help figure out if your issues might be a symptom of bipolar or another mental health condition and recommend treatment if needed.
Your Depression Goes Way Deeper Than Just Feeling Down
Bipolar depression shows up in different ways for different people. You might have trouble sleeping. Or you might sleep too much, and even find it hard to get up. The smallest decisions can seem huge. Overwhelming feelings of failure, guilt, or deep loss can trigger suicidal thoughts.
Other signs to look for:
- You feel like you canât enjoy anything.
- You find it hard to focus.
- You eat too little or too much.
- Youâre weary, and your movements seem slow.
- Youâre forgetful.
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What Is A Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes extreme shifts in moods and energy levels, often with periods of depression and mania.
The manic episodes are characterized by elevated mood, decreased need for sleep, increased talkativeness, and other changes in behavior. It is a medical condition that affects a persons mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, ability to function in daily activities, and thoughts. The exact cause of this condition is not known however, genetics may play a role.
Some researchers believe that certain genes may predispose someone to develop bipolar disorder. Other factors that could contribute to the development of bipolar disorder include brain injury, environmental factors like stress, substance abuse , and family history.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of extreme highs and lows. These episodes are called manic and depressive states. A person who experiences one or both of these states is said to have bipolar disorder. It is often misunderstood as merely experiencing wild mood swings. Unfortunately, this type of misconception can make it difficult to research how to determine whether you are bipolar or not.
An individual with bipolar disorder experiences high periods of mania and low periods of depression .
In contrast, the depressive episodes are marked by feelings of sadness, lethargy, loss of interest in activities, appetite change, and suicidal thoughts. These episodes can last weeks, months, or even years at a time.
What Risks And Complications Can Bipolar Disorder Cause
There can be complications and risks for people who live with bipolar disorder. But these risks can be lessened with the right support and treatment.
What about suicide and self-harm?
You might have an illness where you experience psychosis, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Your risk of suicide is estimated to be between 5% and 6% higher than the general population.
You are more likely to try to take your own life if you have a history of attempted suicide and depression. It is important that you get the right treatment for your symptoms of depression and have an up to date crisis plan.
There is also research that suggests you are 30% – 40% more likely to self-harm if you live with bipolar disorder.
What about financial risk?
If you have mania or hypomania you may struggle to manage your finances. You may spend lots of money without thinking about the effect that it may have on your life.
You could make a Lasting Power of Attorney. This is a legal process. This means that you pick someone that you trust to manage your finances if you lack mental capacity to manage them by yourself.
You can work with your carer and mental health team. You can form an action plan. This can say what they can do if you have a period of mania or hypomania and you start to make poor financial decisions.
What about physical health risk?
What about alcohol and drugs risk?
If you want advice or help with alcohol or drug use contact your GP.
What about driving risk?
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At What Age Is Bipolar Disorder Usually Diagnosed
Bipolar disorder usually appears between ages 15 and 24 and persists through a lifetime. It’s rare that newly diagnosed mania is seen in young children or in adults over age 65.
Severity of symptoms varies with individuals who have bipolar disorder. While some people have a few symptoms, others have many that impair their ability to work and live a normal life.
Marked by relapses and remissions, bipolar disorder has a high rate of recurrence if untreated. Patients with severe mania usually require hospitalization to keep them from risky behaviors. Those who are severely depressed also might need hospitalization to keep them from acting on suicidal thoughts or psychotic symptoms .
About 90% of individuals with bipolar I disorder, which is the more serious form, have at least one psychiatric hospitalization. Two out of three will have two or more hospitalizations in their lifetime.
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
This online resource, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , can help you locate mental health treatment facilities and programs. Find a facility in your state by searching SAMHSAs online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator. For additional resources, visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.
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How Often Do Bipolar Episodes Occur
Bipolar episodes happen at different times for different people. The frequency can depend on a lot of things, such as:
- How well you’re able to manage your symptoms.
- How you’d personally define an episode.
- Whether certain situations or experiences can trigger episodes. For example, you might find that sleeping very little or going through a stressful life event could trigger a manic episode.
The length of mood episodes can also vary. They can last for a few weeks or much longer. What’s normal for you can also change over time.
These experiences can be extremely difficult to cope with while going through them. While you’re feeling stable, it can be helpful to think about the future.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder
In the early stages, mania and depression are common symptoms. However, these periods may go beyond depression and mania. They become longer-lasting and more severe than normal. This is when individuals begin to experience psychosis.
During a bipolar episode, manic symptoms and depressive symptoms can last for a week or more, with some patients experiencing symptoms of both daily.
Look for any of the following signs of mania or bipolar depression to know the symptoms of bipolar disorder:
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Bipolar Disorder Can Be Manageddont Lose Hope
Trying to manage a new diagnosisor an existing onecan be challenging. The following may be helpful to make it seem less overwhelming.
- Stick to the treatment process it may take some time to achieve meaningful progress, but its worth it
- Keep all appointments and talk to your doctor about all questions and concerns, especially as they relate to the treatment process
- Take all medications as directed and talk to your doctor if you need a change in treatment
- Build a routine and stick to it this includes exercise, sleeping, and eating
- Try to be patient improvement takes time and having strong social support can help
- Stay away from alcohol and drugs as their use can influence brain connections, leading to mood swings
Even though bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness, treatment for it is effective. With management of the condition, people can both control their symptoms and live healthy lives.
McLean offers world-class bipolar disorder care. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental illness, call us today at to learn more about treatment options.