11 Devastating Signs of Bipolar Symptoms

There are more than 3 million cases of bipolar disorder in the United States every single year. Despite how incredibly common this mental illness is, most don’t understand it all. After all, it’s incredibly common to hear someone say, “Wow, you’re moody today. What are you, bipolar?”

Bipolar disorder isn’t just “feeling moody.”

While bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings, it is so much more than being occasionally moody. This debilitating condition can completely take over someone’s life, making it hard to function on a day-to-day basis. That’s why experts estimate that about 1 in 3 people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at least once in their lifetimes.

1 in 3.

That shocking statistic should highlight how severe the condition is and, subsequently, how crucial it is for sufferers to seek professional help. In order to do that though, someone first has to know that something is wrong; that means knowing about bipolar disorder and identifying its symptoms are the first steps toward managing the condition.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

So, what are the signs someone should be on the lookout for when it comes to bipolar disorder?…

Manic Symptoms

Mania is one of the two major defining features of bipolar disorder, the other being depressive episodes.

What is mania?

Manic episodes are the “highs” of bipolar disorder. They are typically characterized by more aggressive, high-energy symptoms. Hypomania is a slightly less severe form of mania.

During an episode, a person may appear to be “wired.” In other words, the person may be overly happy; they are also just as likely to be extremely irritable or touchy. In fact, someone may become agitated or aggressive when challenged.

What are the symptoms of bipolar mania?

The first sign of bipolar mania? It will keep someone up all night—literally…

1. Less Sleep

During a manic episode, the sufferer may feel less need for sleep. They may also feel that sleep is unimportant and that they are simply too busy to rest.

How does this symptom manifest?

As a result, people may continue frenzied activities or talk day and night. It isn’t uncommon for someone to become hyperfocused on an activity or to flit from one activity to another for hours on end, only to realize that they haven’t slept at all that night.

What are the consequences of this symptom?

Sleep patterns may be severely disrupted to just a few hours at a time (if at all). Furthermore, during a manic episode, people are less likely to achieve REM sleep. Importantly, REM is the stage of sleep where we most commonly dream, and it is thought to be important for memory processing and restoration.

Furthermore, sleep deprivation can greatly aggravate bipolar manic behavior, or even be the catalyst of an episode.

Of course, a manic episode won’t just affect sleeping habits; eating habits also change during this time, too…

2. Changes in Appetite

When someone is experiencing a manic episode, both sleep and regular eating habits may be early casualties.

How does mania cause a change in appetite?

People tend to eat less than they normally do when they’re manic. But why?Many times, people are simply to distracted by other activities or their thoughts may be racing so much that they simply forget to eat. Other times, a manic episode may trigger a feeling of contentment. As such, the sufferer feels there is simply no need to eat at that time.

What are the complications of this symptom?

These changes in appetite can be dangerous. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet with needed nutritional elements and caloric content. Failure to eat regularly can result in weakness and loss of cognitive function. It can even lead to permanent damage over time.

The next sign of mania? It typically leads a bipolar individual’s head spinning…

3. Racing Thoughts

Another symptom of bipolar mania? The inability to focus one’s thoughts.

How does this symptom manifest?

During a manic episode, the sufferer may speak very quickly, jumping from subject to subject randomly. They may become easily distracted, leaving one activity unfinished in favor of another.

Racing thoughts may also keep the sufferer from being able to sleep or even relax for any period of time. However, they may feel exhilarated rather than exhausted. They may also become fixated on one line from a movie or song, repeating the lyric again and again. If the behavior becomes extreme, immediate medical attention should be sought.

Don’t ignore this symptom.

Racing thoughts may be the initial symptom of a manic episode, and the results can be crippling for the individual. After all, racing thoughts can lead to many other manic symptoms like insomnia. So, those experiencing this symptom will need to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Closely related to racing thoughts is the following manic symptom that can lead to someone feeling on top of the world…

4. Delusions of Grandeur

About two-thirds of bipolar mania sufferers experience feelings of heightened power and importance.

How does this symptom manifest?

In this state of mind, reality means little. A person may believe:

  • They are famous
  • They know famous individuals
  • They have influence over world events
  • Their IQ far exceeds those around them
  • They are able to read minds
  • They can perform incredible feats without personal injury

Bipolar disorder or something else?

Delusions of grandeur are not limited to bipolar disorder. It also a classic symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, for example. However, when combined with other symptoms. it may indicate a dangerous mental state.

Therefore, suffering from it should be closely monitored. It is possible a manic bipolar sufferer could bring harm to themselves or others as a result of these delusions. Why? Because this symptom could lead to the following dangerous sign of bipolar disorder…

5. Risky Behavior

With or without delusions of grandeur, a person in the throes of a manic episode may lose the ability to gauge safe limits for themselves.

How does this symptom manifest?

There are several ways this symptom presents, including:

  • Drive recklessly
  • Engage in eating or drinking binges
  • Abuse drugs
  • Try activities they aren’t physically conditioned for, resulting in personal injury
  • Gamble
  • Give away money
  • Hypersexuality, or feeling intensely aroused, which can lead to reckless sexual behavior

This symptom can have extreme consequences.

To prevent the catastrophic results of poor judgment during this time, make sure proper boundaries are observed and medications or medical help is sought as required.

What about bipolar lows?

Up to now, we’ve only discussed manic symptoms. However, mania is only one half of the bipolar equation…

Depressive Symptoms

As mood swings move in the opposite direction of mania, a whole new set of symptoms may begin to be displayed. The result? A depressive episode.

Which lasts longer: depression or mania?

It varies by the individual. That being said, experts estimate that most people with bipolar disorder experience longer depressive episodes than they do manic ones.

What are depressive episodes?

In some cases, depressive symptoms may be more dominant than manic ones. These symptoms can be especially dangerous as the sufferer tends to withdraw from their support group and center on thoughts of failure and helplessness.

What’s the difference between “regular” (unipolar) depression and bipolar depression?

Bipolar depression is similar to unipolar depression, or depression that is not accompanied by mania. Bipolar depression is characterized by feeling “the most intense low,” which may swing into “the highest high” (manic episode).

What are the symptoms of a bipolar depressive episode?

Unfortunately, depressive episodes can have severe consequences, such as the following…

6. Withdrawal

It may seem easier and more desirable to a person in a depressive state to be alone than with company, even the company of a spouse or other loved one.

How does this symptom manifest?

Depressive individuals have little interest in participating in social activities and are often unable to experience pleasure. They may additionally experience a decreased sex drive and be less affectionate during this time.

What are the consequences of this symptom?

Depressive individuals may be plagued with feelings of anxiety over simple things. These negative emotions may express themselves by sudden tears or other outbursts. The result can be broken relationships, loss of employment, and isolation. If you or a loved one is experiencing these symptoms, get help at once.

Now, the following sign of a depressive episode can worsen every other symptom someone experiences…

7. Sleep Disorders

Manic and depressive episodes alike can both negatively impact a sufferer’s ability to get quality shut-eye.

How do depressive episodes affect sleep?

Depressive episodes can affect sleep routines in several ways.

  • Ongoing anxiety may make it difficult to fall asleep, resulting in insomnia.
  • Sleep may be fitful at best, causing the individual to wake early, still exhausted.
  • Or, the opposite may occur. An individual may experience hypersomnia, staying in bed for days, seemingly sleeping continuously but never feeling rested.

What are the dangers of sleep deprivation?

Sleep issues affect every single part of our lives. They can make those in a depressive state feel physically ill along with being emotionally drained. Sleep deprivation affects cognitive abilities as well.

So, it is important to establish a consistent sleep routine to help train or retrain the body to rest at appropriate intervals for necessary periods of time.

Once again, as is the case with manic episodes, depressive episodes may also affect eating habits in addition to sleep…

8. Eating Disorders

Bipolar depression can also lead to a host of eating disorders. In fact, over 14% of bipolar patients suffer from some type of eating disorder, which complicates many other symptoms of the disorder.

What eating disorders may develop?

Common eating disorders in bipolar patients include:

  • Binge eating, which may lead to weight gain
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa

How does bipolar disorder cause eating disorders?

Eating “comfort foods” can be a form of self-medication during depressive episodes. As a result, there is a greater chance that bipolar sufferers will be overweight or obese. This risk is especially high for women and can increase with each depressive episode.

Furthermore, some medications can actually exacerbate eating disorders.

What should someone with this symptom do?

It may be a good idea to talk to your medical professional about different types of behavioral therapy to help alleviate the problem. Along with bipolar disorder, an eating disorder is a lifelong condition requiring consistent lifestyle changes.

Unfortunately, judgment and cognition may be impaired just as much during a depressive episode as a manic one…

9. Less Talkative

Normally quick-witted and sharp individuals may suddenly become suddenly less talkative, a stark contrast from the talkativeness exhibited during a manic period.

How does this symptom manifest?

There are several ways slowing cognitive function may manifest in those experiencing a bipolar depressive episode.

  • During a bipolar depressive episode, speech may become slow.
  • Sufferers may become less talkative than usual.
  • When they do speak, they may have trouble remembering or processing information, making normal conversation difficult and job performance an almost impossible chore.
  • On top of these difficulties, bipolar patients may simply feel they have nothing to say and so may lapse into long periods of silence.

What are the consequences of this symptom?

Bipolar sufferers may have difficulty thinking clearly, which contributes to feelings of guilt and helplessness. Over time the condition can lead to overall lowered cognitive functions in the areas of word memory, retention, and the ability to plan, prioritize, and organize in every area of life.

Closely related to this symptom is the following cognitive side effect of bipolar depression…

10. Difficulty with Concentration and Decision-Making

During manic episodes, bipolar patients may make impulsive, rash decisions they will later regret. During a depressive episode, they may conversely be unable to make any conclusive decisions, even about important matters regarding their own health and safety.

How does this symptom manifest?

A lack of concentration is a common symptom for bipolar sufferers. They may be easily distracted, feel lost, or become confused even in familiar places.

Importantly, becoming disoriented or unable to focus could be an important indicator of an oncoming episode. Recognizing such predictors can be important for timely intervention and treatment, thus lessening any permanent impact they may cause.

What are some tips for dealing with this symptom?

If you or someone you love suffers from bipolar disorder, it may be a good idea to place a portion of important decision-making processes in the hands of a trusted family member or friend who can ensure the proper medical attention is received when needed.

The most devastating symptom of bipolar disorder of all?

What’s the most dangerous and devastating symptom of this condition?…

11. Suicidal Thoughts

If you are concerned about a possible suicide attempt, don’t leave your friend alone. Remove any firearms, knives, or other weapons, along with any possible dangerous medications or other toxic substances. You may also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Suicidal ideation and behavior is common in bipolar patients.

Since professional estimates state that as high as 30 percent of bipolar sufferers will attempt suicide at least once during their lifetime, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and armed with the information to act quickly should the need arise.

What are the signs of suicidal ideation?

It is time to take action if a bipolar patient (or anyone, really):

  • Begins to speak often of death or suicide
  • Becomes overly withdrawn
  • Seems to be hoarding medicines or potentially self-destructive weapons
  • Looks into insurance policies
  • Gives away their possessions
  • Tries to “make things right” with family and friends

This symptom isn’t exclusive to depression.

Unfortunately, someone with bipolar disorder may feel suicidal during both depressive and manic symptoms. That means loved ones need to keep a close eye out for concerning symptoms not just during a depressive episode.

What’s next?

What’s most important for someone who thinks they or someone they care about is suffering from bipolar disorder?…

Bipolar Disorder Can Be Managed

A timely, accurate diagnosis can be the key to bipolar disorder sufferers’ ability to lead healthy, active lives. BD is a lifelong illness that must be addressed with ongoing care in mind.

Bipolar disorder might be misdiagnosed or missed at first.

Bipolar disorder can sometimes be masked if it is coupled with an anxiety disorder or ADHD. A mental health professional will be able to run appropriate tests for a more comprehensive result.

What are tips for managing this condition?

A structured lifestyle can be an important tool for preventing or shortening episodes. In other words, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding stressful situations are all important. Keeping a life chart recording day-to-day changes in mood or habits can help pinpoint the onset of a manic or depressive state.

Final Thoughts

Lifestyle plus medications can help keep BD sufferers stable and successful in all areas of life. If you recognize a number of the above symptoms in yourself, a loved one, or coworker, speak honestly in order to ensure that you or they get help now.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the site owner or any brands and companies mentioned here. Any content provided by our bloggers or authors are of their opinion, and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything. This article is purely for reference purposes and does not constitute professional advice and may not be reflective of the best choice for your unique situation. This site strives to provide as much accurate information as possible; however, sometimes products, prices, and other details are subject to change. Therefore, this site does not verify for the accuracy of the information presented in this article. This site does not assume any liability for any sort of damages arising from your use of this site and any third party content and services.