How extreme do these mood swings have to be? Psychiatrists use their professional handbook, the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM)</i> in order to diagnose if mood swings into depression and mania are serious enough to be symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar depression symptoms
Depression involves feelings of sadness and emptiness or a loss of pleasure or interest in things. These feelings last most of the day, on most days for at least 2 weeks. These symptoms are severe enough to impact negatively on work, relationships and everyday life.
1. Feeling sadness or emptiness. 2. Losing interest or pleasure in one’s usual enjoyments. 3. Changes in appetite (up OR down), and/or substantial and unplanned loss of weigh or weight gain. 4. Insomnia. 5. Excessive tiredness or sleepiness, and/or lack of energy. 6. Restlessness and agitation. 7. Reduced sex drive. 8. Lack of motivation. 9. Feeing worthless. 10. Feeling guilty about things you are not responsible for. 11. Indecision. 12. “Fuzzy” thinking, problems concentrating, or memory loss. 13. Thoughts of self harm or suicide. 14. Hallucinations. 15. Delusions.
Bipolar symptoms of mania
The word “manic” is often thrown around quite casually, but for genuine bipolar symptoms, mania must have some very definite characteristics. Specifically, to meet a diagnosis of mania, the mood changes must last for at least a week, or be so severe that hospitalization is required. These bipolar disorder symptoms cause significant disturbance to work, relationships and daily life.
Symptoms of bipolar mania include:
1. Exaggerated high opinion of oneself. 2. Beliefs that one has great talents or gifts that extend beyond reality. 3. Hallucinations. 4. Reduced need for sleep. 5. Talking more than usual. 6. Pressure to keep talking. 7. Skipping from one idea to the next so there is a fragmented flow of thought. 8. Racing thoughts. 9. Easily distracted but some short periods of very focused attention. 10. Feeling restless and agitated, for example finding it hard to sit still. 11. Increase in goal directed activities, related to social, work, school, or sexual pursuits. 12. Excessive engagement in pleasurable activities without thought to their distressing consequences, such as big spending sprees, gambling, sexual indiscretions, poor business investments.
Symptoms of hypomania
Hypomania is a milder form of mania, and may result in a diagnosis of Bipolar Type II or “soft” bipolar.
The symptoms of bipolar mania and hypomania are the same – what is different is the DURATION and INTENSITY of the bipolar symptoms.
In hypomania, the symptoms must last for at least 4 days and are not serious enough to require hospitalization.
And remember, bipolar symptoms are all about mood swings – there must have been BOTH depression AND mania/hypomania.
SEXUAL ISSUES are amongst the most common, but least discussed symptoms:
“A very common symptom in maniacal conditions is erotic excitement. This varies from mere coquetry, an extended application of the command “love one another”, an undue attention to the opposite sex, up to extreme salacity, when the mind is wholly occupied by urgent sexual appetite, and all restraint abandoned.” – DANIEL HACK TUKE (1827-1895)
Sometimes we need to consider outward manifestation of bipolar as well as a sufferer’s own subjective, internal states.
Regardless of what someone may report their mental and emotional state to be, valuable insight into their symptoms can be gained if you know some basic information about Bipolar Behavior.
HINT: PLEASE do read about this and do not base your image of bipolar symptoms on what you have read about Charlie Sheen.)
Cognitive bipolar symptoms
This is a tricky area because sometimes cognitive problems such as “fuzzy thinking” or memory loss are due to the side effects of bipolar medications.
Also, many people with bipolar disorder are very gifted and often believe that mania, or at least hypomania, enhances their abilities.
However, there is also evidence to suggest that with bipolar, cognitive problems can be a pretty typical symptom.
This may be anything from being easily distracted, to mental fogginess, memory problems, or becoming easily confused.
There is a difference between symptoms that MAY occur in bipolar and the symptoms that are used as the criteria for diagnosis. Foggy thinking alone is not a reason to suspect bipolar – grandiosity and racing thoughts are.
The evidence about cognitive bipolar symptoms can be conflicting. For example, one study observed poor performance in all groups of bipolar people when compared to “healthy” subjects with tasks such as verbal recall and executive functioning.2
Other research has shown that once stable, folks with bipolar do not show cognitive impairment.
Also,rather than having harmful cognitive effects, some bipolar medications such as lithium have neuro-protective properties and can help the brain regenerate grey matter and protect against problems such as memory loss.
Physical effects and symptoms of bipolar
Sometimes bipolar symptoms are caused, aggravated, or exacerbated by other underlying medical conditions such as thyroid problems.
Also, people with bipolar disorder are twice as likely to die prematurely from medical conditions such as heart disease and stroke than are members of the general population.
Even scarier, they are three times more likely to develop diabetes, and some diabetes symptoms look like bipolar.
Manic depression symptoms or bipolar?
Is there ANY difference between the symptoms of manic depression and those of bipolar?
Generally we are simply told that “bipolar disorder” is the new name for what we used to call “manic depression” or “manic-depressive illness”.
However, some experts do see a difference in the precise definition of these terms. In other words, for some experts “bipolar” is not just a replacement, synonym or updated term. For these experts “bipolar disorder” does carry a different meaning.
For example, to some, “manic depressive illness” is a synonym only for Bipolar Type 1 and Bipolar Type 2, but does not cover the full bipolar disorder spectrum. Further, some prefer “bipolar disorder” to “manic depression” because manic depression sounds so black and white, allowing for either a distinct episode of mania or a distinct episode of depression. However, the illness can also include mixed episodes and a range of other, more subtle, nuances.