Every human will experience highs and lows of life, but some people experience more than the proverbial mood swing. For people with bipolar disorder, highs and/or lows can interfere with daily life. Work becomes harder, decisions are tougher, and relationships can suffer.

Knowing the symptoms of mood episodes of bipolar disorder, which include mania and depression, can be an important first step in getting treatment and support for yourself or a loved one. Most people associated bipolar disorder with the highs and lows in mood, but the disorder affects much more than that. Symptoms also can include changes in sleeping, eating, energy level, attention, and other behaviors.1 The average age of symptom onset is roughly 25 years old, although children and teenagers can also exhibit signs.2

Mania

Mania is a term used to describe a high-energy or elevated mood state. A person with mania may feel on top the world or cranky for no reason. They don’t need as much sleep, and they might talk quickly as they struggle to keep up with their racing thoughts and stay focused on a single task. They also might feel they are capable of great feats, even to the point of having superpowers or being a celebrity. Because of this elevated sense of self-worth, they might be in danger of making risky decisions that can be damaging to their health or their future.

A manic episode must include at least three of the following symptoms:3

  • increased talkativeness
  • increased self-esteem or grandiosity
  • decreased need for sleep
  • increase in goal-direct activity, energy level, or irritability
  • racing thoughts
  • poor attention
  • increased risk-taking (spending money, risky sexual behaviors, etc.)

Mania often results in problems in work, school, and relationships, and in some cases, it may require hospitalization. A less severe form of mania is known as hypomania, where a person exhibits high-energy symptoms but is able to continue with day-to-day responsibilities and may even see an increase in job performance. However, a hypomanic episode can easily lead to depression or a full episode of mania and should be treated.

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Worried you may be suffering from the symptoms of Mania?

Take our 2-minute Mania quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

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Depression

Depression is a low-energy or decreased mood state commonly experienced by people with bipolar disorder.  A person who is depressed can almost seem as if they’re moving in slow motion. They have trouble making decisions and feel discouraged when fun activities which lifted their mood no longer work. A person who has experienced 5 or more of the following symptoms may be experiencing a depressive episode:4

  • depressed mood
  • changes in sleep
  • changes in eating
  • fatigue or lack of energy
  • loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • restlessness or slowing down
  • feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • indecision or difficulty concentrating
  • thoughts of suicide

Not everyone who has bipolar disorder experiences depression, but if you have experienced manic symptoms, you may also be at risk of developing depression. It’s also important to remember that a low mood can sometimes take the form of anger or irritability, so you don’t necessarily have to experience stereotypical sadness to have depression.

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Worried you may be suffering from the symptoms of Depression?

Take our 2-minute Depression quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

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Using Symptoms to Diagnose

 Depending on your symptoms, your doctor or a mental health professional may give you one of several diagnoses. First, they will need to rule out whether the bipolar symptoms are caused by drug or alcohol use or another medical condition. People who are not receiving treatment for bipolar frequently use drugs or alcohol to cope with symptoms, so you may need medical assistance in detoxing from substances first before an official diagnosis can be made.5

If you’ve experienced the full criteria for a manic episode, you may get a diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder. If you have manic symptoms but are not seriously impaired by them and have also experienced depression, you may receive a diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder. Finally, if you’ve experience manic and depressive symptoms without meeting the requirements for a full manic or depressive episode, your doctor may diagnose you with Cyclothymic Disorder.6 

If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing a typical shift in mood or one that might merit a diagnosis, ask yourself, “Have these symptoms interfered with work, school, relationships, or other daily responsibilities?” If so, then talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about your concerns.

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Concerned about Bipolar Disorder?

Take our 2-minute Bipolar quiz to see if you may benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

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Above all, it’s important to remember that the symptoms of bipolar disorder are treatable. People can move on to live healthy and successful lives rather than be governed by shifting moods. What steps can you take today to get the support you need for your mental health?

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Last Updated: Nov 25, 2018