Skip to main content

How to Recognize the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can be controlled with medication. Learn to spot this condition's hallmark behaviors.


  • Step 1: Observe mood swings Look for mood swings -- either abnormally elated or excessively angry or sad and hopeless. Onset may be gradual or dramatic, and behavior can be unpredictable. The key is that these mood shifts interfere with a person's life and ability to function.
  • TIP: Bipolar disorder can show up as early as childhood, although it more commonly develops in late adolescence or adulthood.
  • Step 2: Recognize the manic stage Recognize a manic stage. Symptoms include a change in mood that may include euphoria, increased energy, a decreased need for sleep, restlessness, impulsiveness, and risky behavior like spending sprees and drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Step 3: Recognize a depressive phase Recognize a depressive phase, which can manifest as sadness; hopelessness; insomnia or an excessive need for sleep; changes in appetite; and thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Step 4: Know the three types of BD Know the three main types of the disorder: Bipolar I involves manic episodes with or without a depressive phase; Bipolar II, which involves depression and at least one hypomanic episode, which is similar to mania but is less severe; and Bipolar NOS -- standing for Not Otherwise Specified -- in which a person's symptoms don't neatly fit into either category.
  • TIP: People with less intense mood swings may have a condition called cyclothymia
  • Step 5: Watch for psychosis Watch for psychotic behavior: If a BD sufferer sees or hears things that aren't there, or suffers from delusions, they are showing signs of psychosis and should not be left alone. Seek treatment immediately.
  • Step 6: Get help See a mental health professional if you are displaying any signs of bipolar disorder, and encourage anyone you know with these symptoms to do the same. Bipolar disorder can be controlled with medication, and tends to get worse if it's left untreated.
  • FACT: Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million American adults.

You Will Need

  • Observation
  • Intervention

Popular Categories