People with bipolar disorder have unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct phases called mood episodes. These bipolar disorder episodes range from an extremely sad or hopeless state called a depressive episode to an overly joyful or overexcited state called a manic episode.
Bipolar episodes include extreme changes in energy, activity and sleep. Someone with bipolar disorder may also have a long period of unstable moods rather than discrete episodes of depression or mania. If a person has a number of manic or depressive symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one or two weeks, it usually indicates a bipolar disorder episode.
Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include a long period of feeling:
- Extremely irritable
- Overly happy and outgoing
Behavioral changes during a manic episode may include:
- Impulsive behavior and risk-taking, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex and impulsive business investments.
- Increased goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
- Racing thoughts
- Sleeping little
- Talking very fast and jumping from one idea to another
- Unrealistic belief in personal abilities.
Symptoms of a bipolar depressive episode include a long period of feeling worried or empty and loss of interest in once enjoyable activities, including sex. Behavioral changes during a depressive episode may include:
- Changes in eating, sleeping or other habits
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Problems concentrating, remembering and making decisions
- Restlessness or irritability
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
A person with bipolar disorder can also experience hypomania. During a hypomanic episode, a person may have increased energy and activity levels that are not as severe as a manic episode. A person having a hypomanic episode may feel very good, be highly productive and function well. The person may not feel that anything is wrong, even though family and friends can recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder episodes. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.
Sometimes, bipolar disorder episodes include symptoms of both mania and depression. This bipolar episode is called a mixed state. Symptoms of a mixed state often include:
- Major changes in appetite
- Sad or hopeless feelings while also feeling extremely energized
- Suicidal thinking
- Trouble sleeping.
Getting the proper treatment for bipolar disorder episodes is important to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Bipolar disorder: Symptoms. Retrieved May 14, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/bipolar-disorder/DS00356/DSECTION=symptoms
National Institute of Mental Health Staff. (n.d.). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved May 14, 2010, from the National Institute of Mental Health website: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml.