“Am I bipolar?”: How to recognize manic and depressive episodes

Human emotions can be quite complicated, and we can experience a wide range of emotions throughout a single day, from deep sadness to euphoria. But what if these feelings cause lasting emotional distress, and you’re consistently jumping back and forth between episodes of the two extremes? You might be exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is quite common: It affects about 5.7 million Americans over the age of 18 every year, which adds up to 2.6% of the total U.S. population. The mental health disorder has an average onset age of about 25, but teens can exhibit symptoms as well. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s always easy to recognize and properly diagnose.

If you’ve been wondering, “Am I bipolar?,” read on to learn about the basics of bipolar disorder as well as symptoms of manic and depressive episodes to be aware of. We’ll also help you learn about when and how to treat bipolar disorder symptoms.

The basics of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes extreme changes in your mood and energy level. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of manic highs and depressive lows, which are referred to as episodes. These mood changes can affect your behaviors and emotions, making it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with others as well as carry out your daily responsibilities.  

There are two main types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar 1 has extreme cycles between manic episodes, lasting up to seven days, and depressive episodes, lasting up to two weeks. Bipolar 2 is characterized by less severe symptoms during manic episodes, known as hypomania. Bipolar 2 episodes are also often shorter and don’t cycle as severely as Bipolar 1.

It’s also important to consider the possibility of cyclothymic disorder. It refers to manic and depressive episodes that last longer than a year. The symptoms of this disorder don’t fit the diagnosable criteria of Bipolar 1 or 2.

10 symptoms of manic episodes

If you’re asking yourself, “Am I bipolar?,” the first step is to recognize manic or hypomanic episodes. There are many potential signs of a manic episode from bipolar disorder that can give you a feeling of euphoria while also resulting in harmful behaviors and negative emotions toward others. Hypomanic episodes will consist of muted versions of the same symptoms.

Ten symptoms of bipolar disorder manic or hypomanic episodes are:

  1. Feeling unusually energetic or wired
  2. High sense of self-confidence
  3. Lack of sleep 
  4. Jumping from one idea to the next
  5. Talking more than usual
  6. Hearing voices that others can’t 
  7. Unrealistic thinking about your abilities
  8. Heightened irritability
  9. Risky or spontaneous behavior, such as gambling or having unsafe sex
  10. Racing thoughts

10 symptoms of depressive episodes

If you’re asking yourself, “Am I bipolar?,” it’s important to see if your manic symptoms follow or precede the symptoms of a depressive episode. Depressive episodes consist of overwhelming negative feelings that make it difficult to handle everyday responsibilities.

Ten signs of a depressive episode from bipolar disorder are:

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  2. Loss of interest in activities
  3. Significant weight loss or gain
  4. Change in sleeping patterns, including insomnia or excessive sleeping
  5. Fatigue or lack of energy
  6. Lack of concentration
  7. Difficulty making decisions
  8. Feelings of unimportance
  9. Heightened irritability
  10. Suicidality

Overlapping symptoms of manic and depressive episodes

While manic and depressive episodes stem from completely opposite emotions, they do have a couple of things in common. For example, they can both cause extreme irritability as well as changes in sleep patterns.

It’s also important to note that both severe manic and depressive episodes can result in psychosis, or a lack of reality. This refers to hallucinations or delusions that match the type of episode you’re experiencing. For instance, you could believe that you have superpowers during a manic episode. If you’re having psychosis during a depressive episode, you could become paranoid about imaginary threats.

Bipolar disorder treatment: When and how?

If you’re asking yourself, “Am I bipolar?” after experiencing manic or depressive episode symptoms, you should book an appointment with a mental health provider to get a proper diagnosis of Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2 or cyclothymic disorder. 

If you’re experiencing psychosis or suicidality, immediately contact emergency services, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 988, or admit yourself into an inpatient psychiatric hospital.

The best treatment options for bipolar disorder are psychotherapy and medication. A therapist can help you work through episodes with cognitive behavioral therapy or family-focused therapy. They can also prescribe medication such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotic medications or antidepressants.

Lightfully Behavioral Health can help if you’re asking yourself, “Am I bipolar?”

It can be scary and confusing when you start to ask yourself, “Am I bipolar?” But you don’t have to go on your mental health journey alone.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step to explore the possibility of bipolar disorder, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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