Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

For over 35 years, Vantage Point is the area’s only full service bipolar disorder treatment facility with a complete continuum of psychiatric and behavioral health services for children, adults and seniors.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder and mental illness

Bipolar disorder is an illness that has marked its territory on millions of individuals. It is an illness that comes without guidelines and without limits that causes those suffering from it to experience the highest of emotional highs and the lowest of emotional lows. It impacts one’s energy level and one’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. These alternating periods of extreme emotions can cause devastating effects on an individual’s life, as well as on the lives of those around him or her.

Bipolar disorder can present itself in a variety of forms and in various stages of severity. The three major types of bipolar disorder include bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder.

Bipolar I is considered to be the most severe type of bipolar disorder. People suffering from bipolar I experience both full-blown manic and depressive episodes. Some may experience one type of episode more often than the other, but it is most common for people to cycle between the two. Individuals struggling with bipolar I will find themselves existing in extended periods of mania only to then fall into prolonged periods of depression. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, that depression will lift and the person will once again be thrown into the highs of mania.

Bipolar II occurs when a person experiences intense episodes of depression yet has had at least one hypomanic episode. Hypomanic episodes are a less severe form of mania. The difference in the way that mania presents itself in bipolar II as opposed to bipolar I is that fact that the hypomanic episodes of bipolar II do not typically cause functional impairment. A person suffering from a manic episode typical to the nature of bipolar I, on the other hand, will find it difficult to function appropriately.

Cyclothymic disorder is characterized by chronic mood disturbances that include alternating periods of hypomania and mild or moderate depression. With cyclothymia, the hypomanic symptoms and the depressive symptoms are less severe and occur less often than the episodes of someone suffering from bipolar I or bipolar II.


Bipolar disorder statistics

Bipolar disorder is said to affect approximately 5.7 million adults over the age of 18 in the United States, which equates to 2.6% of the entire U.S. population. The average age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years old, yet it can affect people of all different ages.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

Professionals in the field have yet to identify the exact cause of bipolar disorder, but there a number of factors that have been identified as playing a role in its development. These factors include:

Genetic: Bipolar disorder is known to be prevalent in people who have a blood relative who is suffering from the same condition, yet that does not mean that only individuals who have a family member with bipolar disorder will develop the illness.

Physical: Bipolar disorder is said to result from a chemical imbalance in the brain, as well as from significant fluctuations in one’s hormones.

Environmental: Significant life events may trigger a mood disturbance in people who have a genetic disposition for bipolar disorder. Similarly, a person who has the biological makeup that makes him or her more susceptible to developing a mood disorder will often begin suffering from the symptoms of bipolar disorder if he or she begins to abuse substances. This is not to say that abusing substances will cause a person to develop bipolar disorder, it can just exacerbate the symptoms and make them more prominent. Because it is believed to be a biological disorder, the symptoms may lie dormant for years before making their presence known.

Risk Factors:

  • Family genetics
  • Major life changes and stressors
  • Substance abuse
  • Trauma

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder will vary based on the type of the disorder (bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymia) a person is inflicted with, as well as what aspect of the disorder causes the most dysfunction (mania or depression).

Behavioral symptoms (manic episode):

  • Talking fast
  • Behaving impulsively
  • Participating in high-risk behaviors
  • Acting in a grandiose manner

Behavioral symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Sleeping more
  • Seclusion
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide attempts

Physical symptoms (manic episode):

  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability

Physical symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Overwhelming feelings of fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Change in eating patterns

Cognitive symptoms (manic episode):

  • Racing thoughts
  • Jumping from one idea to another
  • Easily distracted

Cognitive symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Slowed thinking and speaking
  • Inability to concentrate

Psychosocial symptoms (manic episode):

  • Feeling overly happy
  • Feeling overly outgoing
  • Feeling as though  invincible, that nothing can harm him or her
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities

Psychosocial symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Feeling worried
  • Feeling empty inside
  • Experiencing feelings of worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Losing interest in things once found pleasurable
  • Suicidal ideation


Effects of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition that will continuously affect people throughout their lifetime. Despite this, the symptoms can be managed through a combination of psychotropic medications and various forms of therapy. If a person chooses not to receive treatment, the symptoms will most likely worsen over time. People will begin to experience more severe episodes of mania and/or depression than they originally did. The frequency of the episodes is also likely to increase. Without treatment, people are more likely to continuously experience problems in their personal and social lives, as well as in their career or academic ventures, as the symptoms will continue to impair their ability to function appropriately on a daily basis.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders

There are a number of mental illnesses that can occur alongside bipolar disorder due to the fact that the symptoms will overlap or due to the symptoms exacerbating another area of the person’s brain, causing the onset of new symptoms. Some examples of these disorders include the following:

  • Substance abuse
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social phobia
  • ADHD

I had a great experience at this facility. I have been to one other facility in the past and I can really tell the difference. The process starts with a FREE assessment and it was done relatively quickly. The staff were empathetic and seemed to really care about helping me. Once I got on the unit I met with other staff who were equally helpful. I got to meet with my doctor and therapist while here and my stay was actually pretty comfortable. I was especially pleased with the beginning stages as I was desperate for help and I got it quickly. The hospital is open 24/7 and an assessment can be done without an appointment.

– A Former Resident