Bipolar Disorder Signs & Symptoms

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that is described by episodes of depression and mania. Symptoms of this disorder can cause extreme impairment to the point where individuals who suffer from it have trouble upholding responsibilities and fulfilling roles.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder

Without obtaining treatment for this disorder, individuals place themselves at risk for suffering from a number of damaging effects that can cause them to struggle in school, at work, or in their relationships. While the chances of experiencing these risks associated with Bipolar Disorder are dependent on whether an individual obtains treatment or not, the type of bipolar disorder that one has will also impact the severity of his or her symptoms and risks involved. The three different forms of bipolar disorder exist that an individual can experience include:

Bipolar I is the most severe form of this disorder, as it involves extreme episodes of mania and depression. When an individual has bipolar I, it is common for him or her to go through an extensive amount of disruption in his ir her everyday life. Some individuals who have bipolar I have more episodes of depression than mania, and vice-versa.

Bipolar II includes episodes of depression and mania, or hypomania, which is a less severe form of mania. Those who suffer from this form of bipolar disorder often experience adverse effects when not receiving treatment, and those who have this form of bipolar should obtain care to treat their symptoms.

Cyclothymia, which is the least severe of all the forms of bipolar disorder, causes an individual to experience pervasive mood disturbances that mimic hypomania and depression. The changes in mood that occur with Cyclothymia are not nearly as severe as other forms of bipolar disorder.

Appropriate treatment for all three types of bipolar disorder is available and can help bring about a healthy recovery for those affected. The most important thing to know is that those who struggle with bipolar disorder can find relief from the symptoms that constantly plague them so they can live happy and healthy lives.


Bipolar disorder statistics

Studies show that roughly six million adults in the country meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder. On average, symptoms related to bipolar disorder tend to develop before age 25, although this disorder has the potential to impact people of all ages. Since children and adolescents also show symptoms of this mental health condition, mental health professionals recognize that bipolar disorders can impact young individuals, too. Therefore, it is believed that nearly 3% of children and adolescents are afflicted with this mental health condition.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

Mental health professionals have not been able to detect one solitary cause for the development of bipolar disorder, therefore, it has been deduced that a handful of factors, such as genetics, physiological changes, and environmental factors can impact the development of this disorder. Consider the following:

Genetic: Studies of families have shown that bipolar disorder can be genetically inherited, especially for those who have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who struggles with this condition. It has been found that a family history of other mental health illnesses where mood is impacted (such as depression) can add to one’s likelihood of developing bipolar disorder.

Physical: Bipolar disorder can be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Chemicals that are responsible for regulating impulses and mood can affect normal brain functioning to a point where symptoms of bipolar disorder begin to manifest.

Environmental: Research has shown that those who go through trauma, abuse, or neglect, or those who suffer significant life changes, are at a greater risk for developing bipolar disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Experiencing abrupt life changes or stressors
  • Experiencing trauma, abuse, and/or neglect
  • Family history of bipolar disorder or other mental health condition

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

Depending on the form of bipolar disorder that one is experiencing, the occurrence and severity of symptoms can vary from individual to individual. Below are some of the many signs and symptoms that one who is suffering from bipolar disorder might experience. Anyone who shows these symptoms should obtain mental health treatment:

Behavioral symptoms (manic episode):

  • Failing to complete tasks
  • Disorganized speech
  • Accelerated speech
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Hypersexuality
  • Acting in a grandiose manner
  • Behaving impulsively
  • Aggressive acting out

Behavioral symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Inability to fulfill roles and/or responsibilities
  • Frequent absences from school or work
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Self-injury

Physical symptoms (manic episode):

  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Reduced need for sleep or not sleeping for long periods of time
  • Restlessness
  • Poor appetite

Physical symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Altered eating habits
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Low energy
  • Weight gain or loss

Cognitive symptoms (manic episode):

  • Easily distracted
  • Rapid thought processes
  • Fleeting ideas
  • Lack of concentration

Cognitive symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Experiencing hallucinations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor decision-making abilities
  • Delayed thinking

Psychosocial symptoms (manic episode):

  • Grandiose feelings
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Irritability
  • Long-lasting emotional excitability
  • Agitation

Psychosocial symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Reduced interest in things that were once enjoyed
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Guilty feelings
  • Feeling empty inside
  • Low self-esteem / self-worth


Effects of bipolar disorder

In order to decrease the dangerous effects of bipolar disorder, an individual must obtain treatment that may include therapeutic interventions and psychotropic medications that lessen the impact of symptoms. Without such treatments, the effects listed below are likely to occur:

  • Impaired academic functioning
  • Academic failure
  • Impaired occupational functioning
  • Job loss
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Presence of self-harming behaviors
  • Inability to acquire or maintain employment
  • Interaction with law enforcement
  • Incarceration
  • Poor quality and decline in quantity of interpersonal relationships
  • Financial strife
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Attempts at suicide
  • Suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders

It is not uncommon for individuals to battle with other mental health conditions in addition to bipolar disorder. Below are some of the mental health conditions that can occur alongside bipolar disorder:

  • Conduct disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Depressive disorders

I learned so much about my bipolar disorder at Montecatini. My stay here absolutely changed my life.

– Former Client
A Dynamic and Vibrant Healing Community
Located in scenic Carlsbad, California, three miles from the Pacific Coast.