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Spotlight on Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

written by: Debbie Roome • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 4/17/2011

Bipolar disorder is characterized by two major sets of symptoms. Read on to learn more about these and how they affect a person.

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    Manic Episodes and Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

    Bipolar disorder is a condition that generally swings from an elevated emotional state to periods of depression that may be deep and long lasting. Each phase has a separate set of symptoms. A manic phase can be identified by the following signs and symptoms:

    • An excessively elevated mood that may include irritation and hyperactivity
    • An inflated sense of self importance
    • Rapid speech and agitated mannerisms
    • A decreased need for sleep and rest
    • Poor performance in a work or school situation
    • Easily distracted and moves from one thing to another
    • Loses rationality and becomes involved in high risk activities that give momentary pleasure. These include wild shopping sprees and sexual escapades
    • Indulging in alcohol or drugs with little or no restraint
    • Delusions and a sense of being disconnected from reality
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    Depressive Episodes and Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

    After a manic episode, a person with bipolar disorder will generally descend into a state of depression that can last for an extended period of time. A depressive episode is characterized by the following bipolar disorder symptoms:

    • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
    • Anxiety and worry
    • Guilt
    • Fear of the future and potential disasters
    • Sleep problems including insomnia, too much sleep and nightmares
    • Inability to concentrate and make even simple decisions
    • Change in eating habits and possible loss of appetite
    • Lack of confidence
    • Aches and pains that cannot be traced to a specific cause
    • Lack of interest in work or school and decreased performance levels
    • Suicidal thoughts or attempts to commit suicide
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    General Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

    As well as the symptoms of mania and depression, there are several other signs that a person may be suffering from bipolar disorder. These include the following:

    • Some people find their bipolar disorder is influenced by the seasons. There is no set pattern as to what seasons are associated with the phase the person is experiencing.
    • While mood swings are a part of bipolar disorder, some people tend more to have more depressive or more manic episodes.
    • Some cases of bipolar disorder are characterized by rapid mood shifts. These shifts may occur within the space of a few hours or they may be spaced out with no less than four in a year.
    • In severe cases of bipolar disorder, a manic or depressive episode can develop into psychosis. This is a detachment from reality where the person may suffer from delusions and hallucinations.

    Bipolar disorder symptoms vary from person to person and in some cases, a mixed episode may occur where symptoms of depression and mania occur together. A person may not be diagnosed in the early stages of bipolar disorder but if psychosis develops, medical intervention is necessary and the condition will usually be diagnosed.

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    Head Case: Treat Yourself to Better Mental Health, Dr Pamela Stephenson Connolly, Headline Publishing Group, 2007

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