Recognizing the Symptoms of Bipolar for Proper Treatment

A Guide to Understanding Bipolar Symptoms

Bipolar Symptoms

Bipolar disorder has the ability to transform your life. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe, while influencing many facets of who you are, how you behave and what you enjoy. When bipolar symptoms are mild, you can function relatively well and maintain your routines. When symptoms are severe, they leave you feeling like someone else, in a highly depressed or manic state.

Bipolar disorder is one of the most known and recognizable mental health issues. It may seem like this is a good thing, but that’s not always the case. The more popularized something becomes, the greater the risk of skewed, biased and false information on the subject. Though there are many that have a firm grasp on bipolar disorder, there are even more that misunderstand or have been misled.

Ordinarily, this misinformation would not be a problem. After all, labeling something does not really change it. But with bipolar disorder, there are hazards associated with lack of appropriate recognition. If you do not understand your disorder, your bipolar symptoms (including the lesser-known symptoms of bipolar) or your triggers, you cannot treat them effectively. Also, people that incorrectly think they have bipolar could be wasting valuable resources inefficiently.

What Bipolar Isn’t

To know what something is, it can be helpful to begin with what it is not. Bipolar disorder is not:

  • Being happy one minute and sad the next. This is probably the most common misconception of the disorder. People have typical changes in moods. Even if they are frequent or intense, this does not necessarily mean bipolar.
  • Adult ADHD. There is a lot of confusion between people with bipolar and people who have adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder combined with depression. It is true that the symptoms overlap, but the treatment is very different.
  • Only caused by alcohol and drug use. Many people with bipolar, especially before it is diagnosed, will self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. When they become drug-free, they may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but this does not mean that the drug use caused the illness.
  • A sign the someone will become violent. It is true that some people with bipolar disorder are aggressive or violent, just as people with depression, diabetes or cancer can be violent. This does not mean that every person with bipolar should be feared.

What Bipolar Is

Bipolar disorder was formerly called manic-depressive disorder. This is a very accurate description of what the disorder is. In many ways, it is a combination of depression and mania. The difference in diagnosis depends on the degree of symptoms and how long they are experienced.


There are three primary types of bipolar disorders listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). This is the text that mental health professionals use to diagnosis disorders. The first is bipolar I disorder. To receive the diagnosis, you must meet the criteria for a major depressive episode as well as a manic episode.

The second is bipolar II disorder where you must meet the major depressive episode criteria as well as a hypomanic episode. The third is called cyclothymic disorder. With this, you will experience depressive symptoms and manic symptoms but never fully enough to meet full criteria for depressive or manic episodes.

Next page: What is bipolar I? 

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