Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that results in extreme mood swings, including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). When someone with bipolar disorder becomes depressed, they may feel sad or even hopeless and lose interest in most activities. When their mood shifts to mania or hypomania, they may feel euphoric, energetic, or excessively irritable. These mood swings can affect sleeping patterns, energy, behavior, judgment, and clear thinking.
Mood swing episodes may occur several times per year or rarely. While most individuals will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not. Although bipolar disorder is lifelong, it is manageable by following a treatment plan. Medicine and therapy can treat bipolar disorder in most cases.
Major Depressive Episode
A major depressive episode is marked by symptoms that interfere noticeably with day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social interactions, or relationships. A major depressive episode includes five or more of the following symptoms:
- Depressed mood, including a sense of sadness, hopelessness, or tearfulness
- A marked decline in interest or enjoyment of almost all activities
- Significant loss or gain of weight while not dieting or intentionally trying to gain
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Slowed behavior or restlessness
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness
- Indecisiveness or decrease in the ability to think or concentrate
- Having a plan for, attempting, or thinking about suicide
Mania and Hypomania
These symptoms characterize both manic and hypomanic episodes:
- Abnormally excited, jumpy, or wired
- An increase in activity, vigor, or agitation
- An exaggerated feeling of self-confidence and wellbeing (euphoria)
- A reduced need for sleep
- Hyperverbal or excessive talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
- Lack of judgment such as shopping sprees, sexual risks, or outlandish investments
Other Characteristics of Bipolar Disorder
Anxiousness, melancholy, psychosis, and other features may occur with bipolar disorder signs and symptoms. The symptoms of bipolar disorder may occur during pregnancy or change seasonally.
People with bipolar disorder may enjoy feelings of euphoria or periods of feeling more productive. However, this euphoria is nearly always accompanied by an emotional crash, leaving the individual feeling depressed, drained, and possibly in legal, financial, or relationship difficulties. Despite the mood extremes, people with bipolar disorder often do not recognize just how much their emotional instability interferes with their lives and their loved ones’ lives.
When to Seek Help
This information is not to diagnose or treat any symptoms. Consult your doctor or a mental health professional if you have any symptoms of depression or mania. Bipolar disorder does not go away on its own. Treatment with a mental health professional familiar with bipolar disorder can help you control your symptoms.
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