Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
On average, it may take up to 6 years for someone to get a bipolar disorder diagnosis. This could be due to the difficulty of differentiating it from depression. It could also be due to the presence of a co-occurring disorder or addiction.
The American Journal of Managed Care says 56 percent of bipolar people have an addiction. Alcohol is the substance bipolar people abuse the most. Such substances complicate the disorder screening process. They make it difficult to make a timely and accurate diagnosis.
It’s tough to diagnose young patients as well. That’s because teenagers are at the age where they can experience constant mood swings. Some of them also experiment with many drugs. This skews the results of their medical checkups.
Patients go through about three incorrect diagnoses before doctors discover they are bipolar. Dr Wes Burgess wrote that in “Bipolar Handbook: Real-Life Questions with Up-to-Date Answers”. This means people suffer from their symptoms for years before they get treatment.
The problem with this condition going untreated is it may destroy the person’s life. It leads to bankruptcy, risky behavior, substance abuse, deteriorating relationships, and death. Moreover, struggling to understand ones risky actions can cause more stress.
As mentioned earlier, the various symptoms appear during one of the patient’s episodes. Out of the normal phase, the patient will be in a depressive or manic state.
In the manic state, the patient feels ‘high’ or ‘wired’. Wired is a term meaning someone is over stimulated, overexcited or overactive. Thus, the individual engages in irresponsible behaviors, such as going on spending sprees. They may also engage in reckless sexual behaviors.
Other symptoms include having distracted and racing thoughts, being talkative, and being sleepless.
With depressive episodes, the individual feels sad and empty. They feel weak, tired, and lethargic. They no longer find pleasure in activities they used to like. Plus, they don’t feel like doing anything.
Depressed people are unable to think critically or concentrate. They also become forgetful. Moreover, they carry a lot of guilt and feelings of worthlessness. They no longer socialize and this makes them very lonely. They may start isolating themselves on purpose.
Unlike the manic who doesn’t sleep, the depressed person goes from one extreme to the next. At night, they suffer from insomnia. Even if they manage to sleep, they keep waking up during the night. Then, during the day, they feel very sleepy and end up sleeping for long hours.
If this depressive state lasts long, the patient may start contemplating suicide. They feel no one loves them anymore. They also believe no one will miss them when they are gone. They think it would be better for everyone if they were no longer alive.
Aside from these two extreme states, there’s also a fourth state called hypomania. This is a less severe form of mania. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) sees hypomania as distinct from mania.
Hypomania is the first stage of manic episodes. It lacks the symptom of psychosis that defines mania. It appears during the mid to late teenage years. The difference between mania and hypomania is the hypomanic remains functional and productive.
Some prescription drugs such as norepinephrine can trigger hypomania. Such effects make people worry prescription pills are more dangerous than illicit drugs. The good news is lowering the dosage of the pills will remove the bad side effect. Alternatively, the patient can withdraw from or change the medication.
When hypomania gets extreme, it has the name hyperthymia. This is a state where the patient experiences hypomania on a long-term basis. Yet, hyperthymia is more stable. It has the following symptoms:
- High-energy and tirelessness
- Extroversion and attention seeking behavior
- High productivity and performance
- Extreme talkativeness and tendency to repeat oneself
- Risk-taking behavior
- Strong sex drive
Let’s take a deeper look at the types of bipolar disorder.