Bipolar symptoms

//Bipolar symptoms

What are genuine bipolar symptoms? So much information about the symptoms of bipolar disorder (manic
depressive illness) is confusing, misleading, or contradictory.

Bipolar Symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar often get misinterpreted, leaving the real problems of bipolar disorder unaddressed.

There is still a shortage of accurate and reliable information about bipolar disorder symptoms, despite much interest.

Traditionally bipolar disorder symptoms were framed in terms of mood swings. However, today bipolar disorder symptoms are often framed in much broader terms.1

One of the biggest difficulties is in distinguishing bipolar from major depression.

As well as confusing bipolar and severe depression, another common misdiagnosis is to mistake borderline personality disorder for bipolar disorder.

Also, bipolar symptoms are easy to confuse with other disorders such as ADHD, or physical problems such as thyroid disorder.


Bipolar symptoms are more than feelings. They must result in behavior with substantial negative consequences.

Discover the real symptoms of bipolar disorder. Don’t be one of the misinformed crowd who confuses bipolar with other illnesses and personality problems.

In some ways “bipolar” was easier to understand back when it was commonly known as “manic-depressive illness”.

This is because bipolar is all about mood swings. These are mood changes that are more extreme and pronounced then the usual ups and downs we all
experience from day to day.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder: from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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.

Learn about medication for treating bipolar depression symptoms


Bipolar depression symptoms include:

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.

See this description of major bipolar disorder symptoms from a leading bipolar research institute.

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.



2019-04-06T19:21:27+00:00December 1st, 2015|Categories: What is bipolar?|4 Comments


  1. David Filter March 27, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Very interesting and informative, and truthful too. Should be read by both clinicians and the general public alike.

  2. Amy November 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    I am very curious about how bipolar relates to diabetes. Is the “three times more likely to develop diabetes” talking only about type 2 diabetes, or type 1 as well? I was also curious about what diabetes symptoms look like bipolar.

    Great article, thank you for writing it!

  3. Patricia L Bedford March 25, 2018 at 11:19 pm - Reply

    I am being told that my boyfriend’s feelings of depression and anxiety and his “fire” going out are because of our relationship. He feels that moving on and just being friends will help him to solve his problems. He also thinks his self destructive behavior, such as drinking and smoking pot nightly is related to the relationship and not his mental disorder. He will not take medication. It makes him feel like a zombie. Two months ago I was the best thing that ever happened to him and he spoke of marriage. Then, the week after Valentine’s day, he just couldn’t do it anymore. The last six years looked good on the surface but deep down it just wasn’t right. He lost his fire and wasn’t feeling excited about anything and it was bc of our relationship. He has spoken to me since we broke up and tells me how much he misses me but his anxiety attacks haven’t been happening as frequently so it must be bc we are no longer together. Prior to the breakup, he would call me to come over to hold him so the anxiety would go away. This was bc I made him feel safe and like “home”. Our entire relationship has been, one month I am the best thing since apple pie and the next month, I am judgmental and not free enough. Is this the bipolar disorder or is he just a huge jerk?

  4. Gloria March 26, 2018 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    How can you call it if you have all the symptoms of Bipolar depression except #14 and 15, but you have # 5,6,7,8,9, of the symptoms of Bipolar symptoms of mania?

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