Mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder come with symptoms and side effects that may demand treatment on their own, but to provide the most effective intervention, the whole picture has to be revealed. For example, treating insomnia in a bipolar person without understanding that their inability to sleep is linked to their condition is not likely to be successful. It’s the underlying condition that will cause it to continue without being addressed.
This illustrates the importance of understanding every sign and symptom of mental health conditions, so they can be recognized early and treated in a more comprehensive way, rather than being treated on the basis of their external effects. Here, we’ll look at some of the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder and discuss the importance of knowing what to look for. The goal is to be more informed about this complex disease and more equipped to recognize it in our friends and loved ones.
Notice a Friend Acting Different?
Friends are known to have good-natured fun at each other’s expense, but what if you poked fun at a friend and they became disproportionately angry or reacted harshly? You might dismiss it as an over-reaction, but what if it’s a sign of something more serious?
Increased anger, arguing, and violent, out-of-character reactions can be some of the many symptoms of bipolar disorder. This is a condition explained by chemical imbalances in the brain, causing intense shifts in mood between accelerated manic episodes and periods of intense depression. In different people, these periods can vary in length and severity, making bipolar disorder hard to recognize right away.
Because bipolar disorder typically develops when a person is in their late adolescence or early adulthood, the signs can be difficult to distinguish from the normal mood swings and changes in behavior that are common during these times. Here are some of the most common signs of bipolar disorder.
Telltale Signs of Bipolar Disorder
Insomnia in bipolar disorder patients is common, but what else? Here are a few behaviors to look out for if you think someone close to you might have bipolar disorder.
Increased Mood Swings
We’ll start with one of the more obvious signs of bipolar disorder—because of the fact that most people associate the disease with severe changes in mood. This may hint at a misunderstanding of the “polarity” involved in bipolar disorder, however.
Many people hear the phrase “mood swings” and think it means a person is happy one minute and upset the next. In reality, the shifts between manic and depressive episodes in people with bipolar disorder can last months. This is a key reason why a person with BD might be incorrectly diagnosed with general depression or anxiety before they understand their disorder.
Bipolar insomnia is very common, but it isn’t the only sleep disorder that may be a sign of the disorder. People with the condition may also suffer from hypersomnia, which means sleeping too much without any control over it.
Bipolar sleep deprivation often occurs during manic episodes, when the body’s systems are accelerated and disrupting its own internal clock. During depressive periods, however, the body is slowed down and may not be able to wake up at a time that’s considered healthy for human behavior.
People with BD are often quick to react strongly because of their fluctuating emotions. This means every conversation can turn into an argument or fight about things that may not even have much importance in the big picture.
This can result in a situation where a person who doesn’t know they’re struggling with bipolar disorder pushes the people closest to them away before they can get help. If you notice someone close to you being especially difficult to be around, it may be beneficial to look closely at their other behaviors for additional signs of an underlying mental health condition.
Hopelessness and frustration are key features of bipolar disorder. During times of bipolar depression, those who suffer from it untreated may exhibit self-destructive behaviors, including the tendency to self-harm.
Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are common with bipolar patients, and earlier diagnosis of the condition can go a long way toward protecting their health and personal safety.
During periods of manic behavior, people with bipolar disorder can be prone to uncontrollable bursts of anger and rage.
This can have negative consequences for the person and their relationships with loved ones. Some studies have revealed a link between bipolar disorder and domestic violence as a result of this change in behavior.
Increased Motivation and Planning
Not all signs of bipolar disorder are negative ones. People having manic episodes related to bipolar disorder often make unrealistic plans or start working on projects they’ll never finish. This may be because of bipolar-linked delusions about what’s feasible or simply an outlet for intense energy.
A person with bipolar disorder may think less about what they’re doing in the moment that they’re doing it. If someone you know starts taking part in risky behaviors, says things that are inappropriate in a given setting, or seems to make more decisions based on impulse, these behaviors could mean they have bipolar disorder.
Never Force a Diagnosis
It’s important to understand that these are common signs of bipolar disorder. However, just because a person is exhibiting one or more of them, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the condition. This is especially true because many of the signs are present in other conditions as well—which is why bipolar patients are often misdiagnosed.
Understanding what a condition looks like isn’t a foolproof way to diagnose it yourself, though—in fact, it’s just the opposite. Even if someone is exhibiting all of the above signs, it’s dangerous to try to identify, treat or access medication for an undiagnosed condition. The list of above signs and symptoms is just a way to let you know what to look out for and when it might be a good idea to seek professional guidance.
From treating insomnia in a bipolar person to trying to curb suicidal thoughts, aggression, and other consequences of mood swings, it’s important to have access to professionals trained in mental health intervention. At FHE Health, we treat all types of mental disorders. If you suspect someone you know may be suffering with bipolar disorder, contact us and learn about all the available treatment options.