How can I tell if I have bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder (also called manic depression) is a mental disorder marked by unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Symptoms are usually intense and differ from the normal ups and downs of life.

Those with bipolar experience emotional states stronger than their usual states. These can last during specific periods, called “mood episodes.” When the episodes are excited, they’re manic. When they’re depressed, they’re depressive. Sometimes, people may show parts of both moods or have a “mixed state”.

Bipolar is further classified as type I and type II. Type I doesn’t typically include major depressive episodes (although one can still have depression symptoms), whereas Type II has at least one major depressive episode lasting 2 weeks and one of hypomania that lasts at least 4 days.

Drastic changes in mood, energy, and behavioural states may show up in episodes:

Manic episodes include Depressive episodes include:
Mood changes

  • Feeling high, overly happy, or outgoing
  • Irritability

Behavioural changes

  • Fast talking, shifting from one idea to another, racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Over-enthusiasm to take on new projects
  • Restlessness; sleeping little or insomnia
  • Holding illogical beliefs in one’s abilities or having high-risk behaviours
  • Impulsiveness
Mood changes

  • Feeling sad or hopeless for long periods
  • Disinterest in activities once enjoyed

Behavioural changes

  • Feeling tired
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Changes in eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of (or even attempting) suicide

If you think you have bipolar disorder, talk to your mental health professional about your symptoms. Get an exam to see if bipolar disorder is the true cause of your symptoms. Then see a mental health specialist for treatment.

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