How to Recognize The Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Guest Post By Aurora McCausland

Everyone has good days and bad days. And everyone has high points and low points of their life. Experiencing these highs and lows in your life is absolutely normal. No one is ever happy all the time, and you’ll definitely have days where you’re sad, upset, or angry. Because a change in mood is normal, it can be hard to notice and recognize bipolar disorder in yourself, or those that you care about.

Characteristics of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by experiencing periods of feeling overly happy and energetic/irritable, to having periods of extreme sadness and depression. The extremeness of these feelings is where the difference between bipolar disorder and simply having a hard day/week differentiate. This condition is sometimes called manic depression or bipolar depression.

Women with bipolar disorder are prone to experiencing four or more episodes in a year, sometimes called rapid cycling. They’re also more likely to experience mania and depressive symptoms at the same time, which is an episode with mixed features. Those with bipolar disorder are 60% more likely to have issues in other areas, such as seasonal depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, and PTSD.

The difference between hypomania and hypermania

Hypermania is a severe form of mania, and one of the subcategories of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of hypermania include an overwhelming feeling of happiness/elation without any reason or cause, high energy without need or desire to sleep, difficulty sleeping because of racing thoughts, lack of coping skills or simply not coping at all, and sporadic behavior that is out of character. These episodes of sporadic behavior can include things like taking spontaneous road trips, shopping sprees, promiscuity, and increased risk taking. Hypermania is also more likely to cause feelings of extreme suspicion, serious paranoia, and other symptoms of psychosis.

Hypomania is distinguished by the lack of psychosis. In short, hypomania is having the same symptoms of hypermania, but on a functional level. If you’re experiencing hypomania, you’re probably much more productive than if you’re experiencing hypermania. So although hypermania and hypomania have very similar symptoms, they have a very different level of functionality.

Spontaneous decisions

One common characteristic of bipolar disorder is making sporadic and spontaneous decisions, but the reasons for this behavior differ. For some, it’s because of a fear of missing out. This could be a fear of missing out on a really great flight deal, visiting a certain vacation spot during peak visiting season, a deal at your favorite shop, a relationship, or really any other opportunity that presents itself to you. For others, these spontaneous decisions arise from a feeling of indestructibility, believing that anything is possible.

While these moments can be exhilarating (for both the person feeling it, and often those around them too,) they come with consequences that weren’t thoroughly thought out beforehand. That’s why it’s important for people suffering from bipolar disorder to manage the condition well.

What to do if you or someone you love has bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder should always be treated by a licensed therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. No level of self-diagnosis will ever help you heal or get help. Treatment for bipolar disorder is lifelong. This treatment generally includes a mix of medication and psychotherapy. It’s also possible to misdiagnose yourself, and so if you’re feeling unwell or suspicious that you’re bipolar, you should seek the help of a professional. It’s possible that what you’re experiencing is not bipolar disorder, but is instead a different mental illness. Only a licensed professional will be able to help you and make those diagnostics.

The dangers of untreated bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is generally a life-long illness. It affects about 2.3 million Americans. It can be hard to diagnose; in fact, it’s often misdiagnosed as a form of depression before it’s correctly diagnosed. This is because the symptoms and severity of the symptoms can differ strongly between different individuals. But going untreated can cause some serious disruptions in your life.

Those who suffer from bipolar disorder often experience a loss of ability to work. Bipolar disorder is actually the sixth leading cause of disability. It also puts a strain on relationships, which can lead to unemployment, divorce, and legal problems. Delayed diagnosis also often leads to substance abuse. 30% of people with untreated bipolar disorder also commit suicide.

These are all issues that can be avoided with proper treatment, and so diagnosis should not be delayed.

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