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  • Attention Newbies! Please Read: Bipolar Disorder Symptom Primer

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    Old 06-06-2005, 08:51 AM   #1
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    Post Attention Newbies! Please Read: Bipolar Disorder Symptom Primer

    The question of "What are the symptoms of Bipolar?" comes up often around here, so I thought it might be good to make a big primer to answer that very question. Our excellent moderators have promised to make this thread sticky so we won't be answering this question every week until we die. So let's hear it for the mods! Yay! Mods Rock! Okay, here we go. . . .


    To aid you in increasing your understanding of bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), below are some of the common symptoms of the illness. Please keep in mind this is only meant as a guide to further your understanding. No one person can diagnose themselves or others as suffering from bipolar disorder. Seek the services of a psychiatrist in determining (or ruling out) a bipolar diagnosis.

    Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

    Most people who have bipolar disorder experience highs and lows – the highs are what is referred to as Mania, the lows are what is referred to as Depression. These swings range from tons of energy to deep despair (even suicidal thoughts). The severity (and frequency) of the mood swings and their life disrupting abilities are the difference between bipolar disorder and ordinary mood swings that occur in almost everyone.

    Mania Symptoms (when one is experiencing these they are said to be "Manic")

    Increase in energy

    Heightened mood (excessive happiness, perkiness, humor)

    High degree of optimism and self-confidence

    Excessive irritability and aggressive behavior

    Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue

    Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-importance

    Racing speech and thoughts

    Impulsive behavior

    Lowered inhibitions (yep, just like when a mentally healthy person is drunk)

    Poor judgment


    Poor concentration (which greatly effects cognitive abilities)

    Reckless and/or inappropriate behavior

    Delusions and hallucinations (Thinking, seeing, and hearing things that don't exist or are not true. This is also known as psychosis)

    Nervousness, anxiety, or panic


    Please note that these symptoms can occur singly or in any combination. For instance a manic individual can be irritable with racing speech and thoughts but not experiencing psychosis.


    Depressive Symptoms (When one is experiencing these they are said to be "Depressed". Go figure, huh?)

    Inexplicable sadness or crying spells

    Changes in appetite (Either lack of or excess of which is linked to sudden weight loss or weight gain)

    Disturbed sleep patterns (Either too little or no sleep known as Insomnia. Or too much sleep known as Hypersomnia)

    Irritability and anger

    Excessive worry

    Nervousess, agitation, and anxiety

    Pessimism, indifference, and apathy

    Loss of energy, persistent lethargy (Usually accompanied by inexplicable and unrelenting fatigue)

    Feelings of guilt and worthlessness (over just about everything)

    Lack of concentration and indecisiveness

    Inability to enjoy former interests and hobbies

    Social withdrawal

    Unexplained aches and pains (and I believe "excessive illness" should be added here. It seems like I catch colds and infections like crazy and recover very slowly.)

    Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (be worried when suicidal ideations or plans are present, this is a very dangerous time)

    Please note that these symptoms can occur singly or in any combination. For instance a depressed individual can be socially withdrawn, apathetic, and hypersomatic but not irritable.
    Types of Bipolar Disorder

    Patterns and severity of symptoms, or episodes, of mania and depression, determine different types of bipolar disorder (supposedly, this is not an exact science so one has to wonder). There are several schools of thought on these Bipolar categories. This is just one set of definitions. And each person with Bipolar disorder usually has a different opinion as well. So consider this a rough guide bounded by very blurry lines.

    Bipolar I disorder is exhibited as one or more manic episodes or mixed episodes (symptoms of both mania and depression occurring simultaneously every day for 1 week or more) and one or more major depressive episodes. Bipolar I disorder may be the most severe form of the illness because it is marked by extreme manic episodes (which typically include psychosis).

    Bipolar II disorder is exhibited as one or more depressive episodes accompanied by at least one hypomanic episode. Hypomania has symptoms similar to manic episodes but are less severe because they are not typically marked by psychosis (this is a blurry line, some do experience psychosis). For some, hypomanic episodes are not severe enough to cause notable problems their daily functioning (they are SOOOO lucky!) but that is not true for everyone. Hypomania can be plenty disruptive and destructive.

    Bipolar II disorder may be misdiagnosed as depression (and often is). This is due to patients (and their doctors) not noticing the signs of hypomania or patients only seeking medical treatment when they are depressed. This is why it is important to tell your doctor EVERYTHING you experience that is out of the norm.

    Cyclothymic disorder is exhibited by frequently fluctuating episodes of hypomania and depression. These episodes are generally short (i.e. lasting days, hours, minutes), and do not occur with the regularity or predictability of bipolar II or I. Cyclothymia is also known as "rapid cycling". I personally believe cyclothymia is another blurry line because some believe cyclothymia to be a part of bipolar I or II and others believe it stands on its own. In any case, it can be a royal pain and deserves attention.

    Below is the ***** page on bipolar disorder and its symptoms as well as many links to related articles.


    It may also be important to note that bipolar disorder has many symptoms similar to borderline personality disorder. It is also common for bipolar disorder to occur along with other disorders such as panic disorder, anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia to name a few.

    I hope this primer has been helpful. Welcome to the boards and good luck!


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