Bipolar disorder can cause cyclical changes in mood that may last for days, weeks, or even months without treatment. These mood swings can interrupt your ability to carry out daily functions by affecting your sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and ability to think clearly.
When the mood shift results in extremely energized, elated, or irritable behavior, it is usually identified as a manic episode. During a manic episode, you may experience abnormally elevated or irritable moods, as well as extreme elevation in activity level, self-destructive behavior, energy, racing thoughts, and talkativeness.
You may also experience a decreased need for sleep. Rather than just having difficulty sleeping, this causes you to feel as if you don’t need sleep or need very little sleep to still feel energized and awake.
During a manic episode, people may be uninhibited about indulging in risky activities. This can lead to significant physical, financial, personal, or professional harm if someone does not receive proper treatment. Symptoms like delusions and hallucinations can sometimes occur in more severe cases.
Less severe manic episodes may be classified as hypomanic episodes.
Feelings of intense sadness, low enthusiasm for activity, indifference, or hopelessness characterize depressive episodes. During a depressive episode, people are likely to lose interest in most activities and experience other symptoms of depression, such as extreme fatigue, change in appetite, and feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
Depressive episodes in Bipolar Disorder are often indistinguishable from those caused by Major Depressive Disorder. For most people with bipolar disorder, depression is actually the most frequent symptom. Because of this, bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed as unipolar depression (like Major Depressive Disorder).
In some cases, bipolar patients may be more aware of their frequent depression but may not have recognized (or may be unable to recognize) signs of mania, which stems from bipolar disorder.
In these situations, they may be treated for unipolar depression instead of bipolar depression. Some of the medications used for unipolar depressioncan make the symptoms of bipolar disorder significantly worse. Determining the right diagnosis is critical in the treatment of mood disorders.
Sometimes, patients with bipolar disorder have a mix of both manic and depressive symptoms. When this happens, it may be classified as a mixed episode.
During a mixed episode, you may feel depressed and hopeless but also impulsive and disinhibited. This can be a dangerous combination, especially if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. Compared to pure mania or depression, mixed states have the highest risk for suicide.