Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of Manic, Hypomanic, and Depressive Episodes

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Bipolar disorder, formally known as manic-depressive illness, is a chronic psychiatric illness characterized by extreme changes in a person's mood and behavior. 

Let's read about the classic symptoms of bipolar disorder during both a manic and depressive episode.

Symptoms of Manic Episode

Mania is a hallmark state in bipolar disorder. An episode of mania can quickly spiral out of control, causing a great deal of disruption and mayhem for the individual and his or her loved ones.


Symptoms include:

  • Feeling overly good, hyper, or "high"
  • Feeling extremely irritable
  • Feeling very self-confident, an unrealistic, sense of entitlement, inflated self-esteem
  • Getting little sleep and not feeling tired — feeling rested after only 3 hours of sleep
  • Talking a lot, feeling pressured to keep talking
  • Having racing thoughts, flight of ideas
  • High energy and taking on lots of tasks at school, home, or sexually
  • Easily distracted, especially towards unimportant things
  • Engaging in more pleasurable activities that have a high potential for poor consequences, like sex, shopping, or gambling

How to Recognize a Manic Episode

Some people have hypomanic episodes and not manic episodes. Hypomania is similar to mania, except the symptoms are overall less intense and only need to last four days in a row, as opposed to at least a week for a manic episode. Hypomania also does not typically impair a person's level of functioning, as a manic episode does.


Symptoms of Major Depressive Episode

Mania/hypomania is the upswing of manic depression, and depression is the downswing. An episode of depression may be very debilitating, often leaving the sufferer with significant problems in functioning. It is an extreme emotional state that impairs daily living.

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling intensely sad or hopeless or worthless
  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Feeling guilty
  • Sleeping problems, too much or too little
  • Moving slowly or restless and agitated, moving more
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Fatigue
  • Restless or irritable
  • Change in appetitie
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

How to Recognize a Depressive Episode

Additional Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

There can be more to bipolar disorder than just mood swings between mania/hypomania and depression. Adults may experience mixed episodesrapid cycling, psychosis, and other complications, or they may have a condition where depression is slightly less serious called cyclothymia.

Children too can be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the some symptoms may be unique from the ones adult exhibit.

The Uniqueness of Bipolar Disorder 

Just as every person on earth is unique, every person with bipolar experiences it in a unique way.

Within the broad groupings of manic/hypomanic and depressive symptoms, each person will have his or her own markers — which are unique expressions of the illness that help to define that person's personal brand of bipolar disorder.

What Should I Do?

While bipolar disorder can severely affect a person's daily functioning and quality of life, with treatment, people can lead meaningful and productive lives. 

If you are concerned about your mood or a loved one's mood, please seek guidance from your personal physician or a mental health professional.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5). 

    American Psychiatric Association. What are Bipolar Disorders? Retrieved October 28th 2015. 

    National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder in Adults. Retrieved October 28th 2015. 

    Twiss J, Jones S, & Anderson I. Validation of the Mood Disorder Questionnaire for screening for bipolar disorder in a UK sample. J Affect Disord. 2008 Sep;110(1-2):180-4. 

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