Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Signs and of bipolar disorders can have major impact on a person’s life. It is challenging and such patients will suffer with manic and depressive moods.

Symptoms of bipolar disorders can hurt the performance at school or at work and damage any relationship. I know first-hand, how bipolar can affect a person and the people around you.  It took me years before I was able to understand the warning signs and symptoms of this condition. Once the symptoms are known, the steps toward recovery can be taken.

I certainly would enjoy the liberty to pinpoint the different symptoms essential to make the diagnosis.  I am not a psychiatrist nor I would have the pretension of treating such individuals but I would like to take this opportunity to share with you the signs, so you can detect the one suffering with the disorder more easily or we can learn how to live with such individual. Let us look at the problem closely and we would be happy to invite our specialist to opiniate on the topic at a later date:

Bipolar Disorder was previously called” Manic Depression” and such disease affects more than 10 million people in the US according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.   It presents in men differently than in woman but affect both sexes equally. Half of the time, symptoms will begin between the age of 15 and 25.

The condition is thought to develop from certain genetic and environmental factors. The one suffering from the disease will have also issue with the way the brain is handling the neuro-transmitters.  It becomes obvious that a deficit in the neuro-transmitters especially the Serotonin and the Acetylcholine, Dopamine, Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), Histamine, and Norepinephrine or Noradrenaline play a role in the changes seen in this pathology.  This is where people with bipolar disorder will experience severe shifts in behaviors, thinking, energy and mood. Often, they will refuse to get out of bed especially during the depressive mood.

The symptoms last for days or weeks but occasionally for months at time.   The symptoms are dysfunctional.  Unlike ordinary mood swings, the depressive and the manic phases in the bipolar disorder can become intense, interfering with a person everyday activity. A person behavior may represent a sign of mental illness especially when actions can be mistaken for a bad decision. Let us review some major signs associated with bipolar disorder:

1-          A person with bipolar disorder experiences uncontrollable highs and lows. He / She can be in a state of manic or hypomanic state and the person feels good and has a lot of energy. They appear highly enthusiastic, cheerful and even highly spirited while they have their grip on reality. They are in this stage, creative and they feel an intense euphoric state of excitement and happiness. They even can exaggerate their self-esteem. They exhibit great mood.

2-          The depressive episode in bipolar disorder is more than just feeling sad. Te person will lose interest in activities or hobbies that they generally enjoy participating in. They will have problems with sleep, energy and may lose their appetite. They may present feeling of guilt, anxiety and anger or may withdraw from family and friends showing a state of depression. 

3-          Some patients may present signs of mixed mania with the depression. They can be extremely irritable with anger interfering with their relationships and daily activities.

4-           Many patients will not consider the consequences of their actions. They can show impulsivity at work or engage in risky sexual behaviors. They may express a need for shopping extensively and later realize their mistakes and returned their purchases. They may be in a financial hole at times. They have no problems spending money.

5-          There is a state of hypomania in which a person can experience hyperactivity leading to a rapid and pressured speech. They may jump from topic to topic or answer their own questions. Inversely, in the depressive mood they will exhibit a slurred or slow speech. This is what is being called dysarthria.

6-          In bipolar condition, 46% of people may exhibit a greater risk to abuse alcohol while 41% will overuse drugs and cigarettes. The neurotransmitter (Dopamine, Serotonin and Norepinephrine) imbalance is thought to influence the addiction after heavy use of substances.

7-          A bipolar patient may have problem in performing at work and not being able to meet the expectations. 88% of people suffering from this disease have reported that the disease has affected their work. This is why many do not mention their condition at work. Often, the place of work is informed and may be supportive of the condition in providing time off for treatment and recovery.

8-          People with bipolar disorder have their mind racing uncontrollably and thoughts are taking over their consciousness. Picture of a carousel continuously going around out of control. They may have also a rapid speech but they do not hear voices like in Schizophrenia.

9-          There may be also an impaired cognitive component related to the depressive and manic phases of the bipolar disorder. They may report issue with long-term and short-term memory, attention span or concentration similarly to the mood swings seen with neurotransmitter disturbances. Remember also that memory problems may represent a side-effect of the medications used for bipolar disorder.

10-     A lack of energy and severe fatigue represent a debilitating symptom seen in patient suffering with bipolar disorder. They may feel so tired that they will not leave the bed. They will sleep longer than usual and will lack of motivation to perform any task. This severe fatigue can be seen during the manic phase or can be a side effect of the medications. Such patients should avoid using electronics to improve their symptoms. (Computer, telephone etc).

11-     Insomnia and other sleep disorders can be seen with bipolar disorder. They may not sleep enough during the manic phase but may sleep too much during the depressive state while they still feel tired. Such patients should keep regular sleep schedule and practice breathing exercises.

12-     People with bipolar disorder may develop suicidal thoughts. This is a clear red flag to not leaving such patient alone but there is an urgent need for him/her to see a doctor or a therapist.

In conclusion, the treatment for bipolar disorder is aimed to reduce depressive and manic phases with serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and electroconvulsive shocks. Counseling or body-center psychotherapy can help the emotional block associated with bipolar disorder… Hypnosis, acupuncture, Tai Chi, Yoga etc have been considered as a natural way to bring help to the one suffering from bipolar disorder… Omega-3 fatty-acids, Magnesium with calcium, vitamin D and C, B complex vitamins, Bioflavoids, Multivitamins. GABA, Turine and L-tyrosine.

Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine. Be sure to refer such patient to a specialist for proper evaluation and treatment.

Maxime Coles MD


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