Someone suffering from bipolar I can have great difficulty functioning. You could have trouble holding down a job or dealing with your family.1
Some symptoms you might experience during a manic episode include:
1. Decreased need for sleep.
2. Racing thoughts.
Bipolar 1 is “classic” or “textbook” manic-depressive illness, with serious and damaging episodes of both mania and depression.
3. Pressured speech.
4. Excess energy. and
5. The need to engage in reckless behavior.
It is this reckless behavior that makes a manic episode the most dangerous to a patient. Driving carelessly, spending excessively and engaging in unsafe and reckless sex can have serious consequences that just do not matter to you at the time.
In a severe manic episode a person can lose all touch with reality. Left untreated a manic episode can last anywhere from a few days to several years. Most of the time these symptoms will last for a few weeks or a few months.
As the key difference between Bipolar 1 and Bipolar 2 is the presence of mania versus hypomania, it is important to understand this distinction in detail. See this explanation of Bipolar 1 mania types from Brown University.
Bipolar Type 1 mania is often followed by a depressive episode. It can come within days or not pop up for several weeks or months.
During a depressive episode you may feel drained, in deep despair, guilty for no reason, worthless and irritable.
Activities you normally enjoy will hold no interest. You may experience sudden weight loss or gain and uncontrollable crying spells. At your lowest moment you may even have thoughts of suicide.
Again, possible consequences mean nothing. These depressive episodes can last for years, that is why bipolar type I is often mistaken for chronic depression.
Many people with bipolar type I disorder can enjoy longs spells without any symptoms in between episodes at all. A minority of patients have rapid-cycling symptoms between mania and depression. In extreme cases symptoms of mania and depression can even alternate in the same day.2
The exact cause of bipolar disorders is not precisely understood. It seems to be a combination of 3 things:
2. Chemical imbalances in the brain.
3. Stress and triggering events that somehow “activate” an inherited predisposition to bipolar.
When you go for an assessment, just like with any other illness, you will be asked about family history. A close relative such as a parent with suspected or diagnosed bipolar disorder greatly increases the likelihood of also having the illness.
So far, there does not seem to be any way to prevent the illness, but you can prevent some episodes of mania or depression once a doctor establishes that you do in fact have Bipolar Type 1.
Bipolar Type 1 almost always requires medication for effective management. Don’t worry – stability and sanity is SO worth it!3
The key factor is stabilization. Regular therapy, steady diet and exercise and – MOST OF ALL – mood stabilizing medications such as lithium can greatly reduce the frequency and severity of Bipolar Type 1 episodes.