A Symptoms Checklist

Mood swings – we all experience them, right? One day you’re feeling on top of the world, the next day you’re irritable and yelling at drivers while in traffic. Some attribute the shift to bad days, hormones, or just feeling a little bit funky. For others, these mood swings are persistent and unpredictable, causing problems with work, friends, and family.

Bipolar disorder affects approximately 4 percent of Americans, according to the American Psychological Association. This condition, also commonly referred to as manic-depression, is a mental health problem marked by intense mood swings from feeling overly happy and excited (mania) to overly sad or depressed (depressive). The kind of moods that affect the general population are much more serious for those with bipolar disorder and can worsen for these people if left untreated.

Exploring the Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder has varying degrees that correspond to the severity and frequency of manic or depressive episodes. While all are noted by unusual shifts to extreme moods, mania or depression can occur separately from each other (with one being more frequent) or can happen simultaneously (called mixed episodes).

  • Bipolar I. This variant of the disorder usually involves manic or mixed episodes that last longer than one week. In severe cases, the mania is so intense that a person experiencing it may need to be hospitalized. The National Institute on Mental Health notes that depressive episodes do occur and persist for about two weeks.
  • Bipolar II. Bipolar II is the opposite side of the type I coin. Rather than experiencing extreme manic episodes, someone with type II bipolar disorder has frequent depressive bouts accompanied by hypomanic (a lesser form of mania). There are often little to no instances of mixed or severe manic occurrences.
  • Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia)Persons with cyclothymia experience lesser forms of mania and depressive symptoms for at least two years but do not meet the full criteria for bipolar disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS). When a person fits this category of bipolar disorder, the manic and depressive symptoms are present and indeed considered unusual for “normal” behavior. Despite this, however, the person does not entirely fit the DMS-IV definition of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

As stated above, those with bipolar disorder often have instances of extreme happiness or sadness that are unusual or unpredictable. How can you tell this from a run-of-the-mill mood swing? Let’s look at some symptoms:

Manic symptoms

  • Intense happiness or joy; feeling “high”; overly excitable
  • Fast speech; racing thoughts (person is hard to keep up with and may switch topics or thought patterns frequently)
  • Impulsive; instances of “high-risk” behaviors, like quitting a job or ending a relationship
  • Insomnia or very little sleep (person can seemingly function with few hours of sleep)
  • Unrealistic ideas of grandeur (person may feel as if he/she is invincible, has super powers, or is more capable than he/she actually is)
  • Easily distracted

Depressive symptoms

  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in once-pleasurable activities
  • Overly depressed, hopeless or sad
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Suicide attempts (suicide attempts are thought to affect up to 50 percent of the bipolar population, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology)
  • Constantly feeling tired or fatigued
  • Poor concentration
  • Restlessness

Other general symptoms also include memory problems, changes in appetite or weight, and feelings of sluggishness both physically and mentally. Bipolar disorder can affect people in more severe ways, too, such as when a person experiences forms of psychosis. Bipolar psychosis can exhibit itself as delusions or hallucinations, causing a person to think he/she is someone else.

Help for Bipolar Disorder

The longer bipolar disorder goes untreated, the more severe it can become. It’s imperative to seek professional treatment should you experience bipolar episodes or think you may be bipolar. This disorder is manageable and, with proper treatment, a person can live a happy, healthy and well-rounded life. Call us at any time to speak to someone who can guide you in the right direction.

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