Like most mental illnesses, there are many misconceptions of bipolar disorder in our society. There are also a lot of mis-diagnoses or trivializing of mood disorders, which can make it difficult to tell if you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, or if you are merely experiencing mood swings, depression, hormone imbalances, stress, etc.
While it is always best to seek out the opinion of a health professional if you feel you may be living with a mental or physical disorder, we will let you in on some common (though subtle) signs that you might be suffering from bipolar disorder, rather than the previously mentioned causes.
1. Emotional Highs…
One of the main signs of bipolar disorder is alternating periods of emotional highs and lows. These highs can sometimes result in a break from reality, but some patients experience hypomania, which is a high energy state in which the patient has not lost touch with reality. During this stage, a person can experience high levels of energy, creativity, and exuberance. They enjoy the experiences of life.
2. … Followed by Emotional Lows
These stages can shift over days, weeks, or months, depending on the patient. These previously mentioned highs will always be followed by periods of low moods that can range from a constant feeling of sadness to debilitating depression. All of that energy and creativity from before will be gone, leaving behind a lack of interest in social activities, fatigue, inability to see the positive in a given situation, etc. These periods will once again be followed by the ‘high’ period and the cycle will continue.
3. Inability to Complete Tasks
The majority of patients with bipolar disorder have a lot of great ideas that they don’t tend to follow through on. Their home or work space may be filled with many half-completed projects. Those with bipolar disorder tend to start projects and then get distracted by another great idea, never truly finishing anything.
4. Rapid Speech
This type of speech – rushed, unfocused, “motor-mouth,” speaking over others – is common in bipolar patients during their emotional highs. It is most indicative of bipolar disorder if this type of speak is uncommon or rare for the individual (e.g. during low times).
5. Substance Abuse
About half of bipolar patients will also have a substance abuse problem. They may use a substance to slow themselves down during a manic phase, or pick their mood up when depressed.
6. Sleep Problems
During a manic phase, someone suffering from bipolar disorder may sleep very little, or at erratic times, though never show signs of fatigue. While in the depressive stage, however, the patient may spend a large amount of time sleeping, only to still feel tired upon waking.