Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Get in front of bipolar disorder by learning its effects. Read what causes bipolar disorder, what signs to look out for, and potential co-occurring disorders. Bipolar disorder can affect our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Understanding your symptoms is the first step to successful healing.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can take many forms but is most often characterized by alternating periods of euphoric energy (mania) and low mood (depression).

Depending on the type of bipolar disorder an individual is suffering from, his or her manic and depressive episodes may cycle rapidly, or subsist for longer periods of time. In addition, the severity of these mood swings (and their accompanying symptoms) can vary significantly and can be improved or exacerbated by environmental stimuli and other factors.

Sometimes, individuals may even suffer from a “mixed episode,” meaning that they will show signs of both mania and depression at the same time.

Typically first diagnosed in young adulthood or late adolescence, bipolar disorder can impact nearly every facet of a person’s life. The condition’s characteristic mood swings can drain your energy, impact your ability to sleep, negatively affect your performance at work or school, and prevent you from taking care of responsibilities at home.

Bipolar disorder will affect each individual differently, and identifying the specific type of the condition you are suffering from will be critical to your success in treatment. To learn more about the different types of bipolar disorder, please review the information below:

  • A Bipolar I disorder diagnosis occurs when there is evidence of manic or mixed episodes for at least seven continuous days, or when manic symptoms are so severe that acute care is needed. Typically, depressive episodes also occur, lasting at least two weeks.
  • An individual with a Bipolar II disorder diagnosis will experience a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic (mildly manic) episodes, but will not experience manic or mixed episodes.
  • Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, is considered a milder form of bipolar disorder and is diagnosed when symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements of bipolar I or bipolar II. It involves episodes of hypomania and mild depression over the course of at least two years.

While any form of bipolar disorder can be highly disruptive, fortunately, there is help available. By receiving professional care at a quality treatment center that offers specialized programming to address this condition, you or someone you love can heal from bipolar disorder.


Bipolar disorder statistics

Bipolar disorder affects many Americans each year, and while there is more to be learned about this difficult condition, researchers have begun to collect meaningful data about the disorder, including the following key findings:

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population ages 18 and above, every year.
  • The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found that the condition affects men and women equally.
  • NAMI states that nearly 83% of bipolar cases are classified as severe.
  • Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. (World Health Organization)

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is never the result of a single cause or experience but is instead a complex culmination of factors, including both genetic and environmental influences such as:

  • Having a first-degree relative who has bipolar disorder
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Experiencing major life changes
  • Being in your early 20s
  • Environmental concerns such as stress, abuse, significant loss, or traumatic experiences
  • Imbalanced hormone levels

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder will vary based on the type of bipolar you are experiencing, as well as other relevant influences like substance abuse or the presence of major life stressors. However, some of the most typical symptoms of the condition are listed below:

Manic (or hypomanic) symptoms:

  • Overly happy, outgoing mood
  • Intense irritability
  • Increasing participation in various activities; taking on new projects
  • Overly restless
  • Requiring little to no sleep
  • Unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Acting impulsively
  • Talking very quickly
  • Jumping from subject to subject
  • Racing thoughts
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors

Depressive symptoms:

  • Extended periods of feeling sad
  • Changes in short-term memory
  • Irritability
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling tired or slowed down
  • Trouble concentrating


Effects of bipolar disorder

While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, there are effective treatments that can help an individual learn to manage his or her symptoms and lead a healthy, satisfying life. However, untreated bipolar disorder will likely worsen over time and can drastically interrupt your ability to maintain your health.

Long-term effects of living with bipolar disorder may include:

  • Frequent absenteeism
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Disability
  • Legal problems
  • Financial difficulties
  • Challenges in romantic relationships
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse and addiction
  • Decrease in healthy interpersonal relationships
  • Social isolation

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder co-occurring disorders

If you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you are more likely to experience one of the following co-occurring conditions:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Conduct disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
  • Social phobia
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)