1. Intense shifts in mood that lasts days or weeks at a time
People with bipolar disorder will experience intense shifts in mood that may include periods of mania (extreme high), hypomania (a milder form of mania), or depression (extreme low). The shifts in mood can range in severity and often people will experience periods of normalcy in between.
2. Changes in sleeping patterns
Sleeping patterns can change dramatically for people with bipolar disorder. During episodes of mania, a person may have trouble staying or falling asleep and may feel energized and euphoric despite only getting a few hours of sleep a night. During episodes of depression they may feel unmotivated to get out of bed or seem constantly fatigued.
3. Irrational thoughts
During episodes of mania, a person will often experience changes in their thinking patterns. They may obsess over certain thoughts or ideas or have irrational thoughts or incoherent speech. Some people will experience symptoms of psychosis during either depressive or manic episodes. This includes delusions, false beliefs, or hallucinations.
4. Change in behaviors
During an episode of mania, a person with bipolar disorder may engage in risky behaviors and make snap decisions without considering the consequences. Several things can contribute to this change in behavior including increased energy, lack of sleep, disoriented thinking, or delusions. Everyone will experience mania differently but some common behaviors associated with manic episodes include gambling, spending sprees, reckless driving, risky sexual behavior.
5. Difficulty functioning
The highs and lows of bipolar disorder will look different for everyone. But regardless of the severity of manic or depressive episodes, for anyone living with bipolar disorder, shifts in mood make it challenging to function in daily life. Someone with bipolar disorder may find it difficult to keep up at work, school, or in relationships.
If you think you or a loved one might be experiencing bipolar disorder, support is available. A psychiatrist can help you learn more about your symptoms and options for treatment so that you can get back to feeling like yourself.