Bipolar Disorder usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during the teen years), although it can start in early childhood or later in life. An equal number of men and women develop this condition (men tend to begin with an episode of mania, women with an episode of depression), and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups, and social classes. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families and appears to have a genetic link.
Mania: The “Highs” of Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of mania include
- heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence;
- excessive irritability, aggressive behavior;
- decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue;
- grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance;
- racing speech, racing thoughts, flight of ideas;
- impulsiveness, poor judgment, easily distracted;
- reckless behavior; and
- in the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations.
Depression: The “Lows” of Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms of depression include
- prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells;
- significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns;
- irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety;
- pessimism, indifference;
- loss of energy, persistent lethargy;
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness;
- inability to concentrate, indecisiveness;
- inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal;
- unexplained aches and pains; and
- recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
People with bipolar disorder experience bipolar depression (the lows) more often than mania or hypomania (the highs). Bipolar depression is also more likely to be accompanied by suicidal thinking and behavior.
It’s during periods of bipolar depression that most people seek professional help and receive a diagnosis. In fact, most people with bipolar disorder in the outpatient setting are initially seen for—and diagnosed with—unipolar depression. Unfortunately, incorrect treatment for bipolar disorder can actually lead to episodes of mania and other problems, so it’s important monitor your symptoms and follow up with your health care providers.