What are Bipolar Disorder Symptoms?

Bipolar disorder symptoms can vary. Only a mental health professional, like a psychiatrist, can diagnose psychiatric conditions. But knowing what bipolar symptoms look like may help you identify a need for mental health care. A knowledge of bipolar disorder symptoms could also help you or someone you care about better explain what they are experiencing to a medical professional. This is especially useful in the case of psychiatric disorders because in psychiatry the clinician’s primary source of data is the patient self-reporting their symptoms. If you know the symptoms by name, it could help you better describe what you feel.

If you want to understand bipolar disorders.  it’s helpful to first have a good working knowledge of the different types. Most fit within three primary categories:

  1. Bipolar I disorder – A person living with Bipolar I will have experienced at least one manic episode lasting at least a week. Manic episodes often bracketed by depressive episodes lasting two weeks or more. Hospitalization at some point is more likely for Bipolar I patients than people with other types.
  1. Bipolar II Disorder – Bipolar II is both a bit more common and typically features depressive episodes interspersed with periods of hypomania, but never a full manic episode as seen in Bipolar I. The cycles can be less dramatic than Bipolar I, sometimes making it harder to diagnose initially.
  1. Cyclothymia – Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder can also be a bit harder to diagnose in the beginning as symptoms are less severe. They include periods of hypomania and depressive symptoms that are less severe than major depression.

How Do I Recognize Signs of Bipolar Disorder?

Mood swings are the major feature people notice most often. People living with bipolar disorder will experience “highs” (mania) and “lows” (depressive episodes). Most of the bipolar disorder symptoms are the same or similar for all the major subtypes of this condition. Part of the way a specific subtype is diagnosed is based upon a few items.  They are how often these episodes occur, how intense they are, and how long they last. That is an important piece of information to keep a record of if you wanted to help a psychiatrist make an accurate diagnosis.

Most of the signs of bipolar disorder are the same for all the types, so here is a list of bipolar disorder symptoms to watch for:

  • Mood swings (usually lasting days, weeks, or months)
  • Mania (high energy, euphoria, talking rapidly, excited)
  • Depressive episodes (low energy, sad, lethargic, loss of interest)
  • Compromised judgment, impulsivity, risk-taking behaviors (mania)
  • Anger, agitation, or anxiety (mania)
  • Sadness, guilt, hopelessness, suicidality (depressive episodes)
  • Unwanted thoughts that may be upsetting.
  • Delusional thoughts or paranoia.
  • Trouble falling asleep (mania) or excessive sleepiness (depressive episodes)

Helping Yourself or Someone Else

Someone with bipolar mood disorder is often unaware of how much their behavior disrupts their lives. They are also unaware of how it affects the lives of the people around them. This condition doesn’t get better on its own.  It can’t be overcome with willpower or discipline. But, if you put forth effort towards getting a proper diagnosis. Then follow that up with the directions of a mental health professional.  You can make bipolar disorder much more manageable. With treatment and medication, it’s completely feasible to live a happy and healthy life with a bipolar disorder diagnosis. The first step should be getting diagnosed by a professional. Keep a record or log of your mood swings and behavior. If possible, have someone you trust help you do this. Try to understand your mood cycles and potential triggers. All of this will be helpful to managing your condition.

What Else Helps with Bipolar Disorder Symptoms?

Medication is often helpful for people with these conditions. It is almost always necessary for Bipolar I patients. So, it is very important to take your medication as prescribed. A lot of the toughest parts of living with bipolar come from the mental ups and downs. This is some of the chaos that mismanaged or unmanaged bipolar can cause. The best way to counter this is to stick to a medication schedule like clockwork. A person with bipolar disorder should do everything they can to bring order, harmony, and peace into their lives. Sticking to routines and staying organized is an easy and effective way to do this.

It sounds basic. But something as fundamental as keeping your wardrobe simple and small can help a lot. Make sure your clothes and belongings are neat and organized and avoid clutter. Stick to a regular sleep routine, even on weekends. Pay attention to proper nutrition. It has a measurable effect on brain health, which will affect your condition. Avoid people, places and things that you know will get you upset or overly excited.


Like all the content we publish, this article is not a substitute for medical advice and shouldn’t be taken as such. You should never attempt to diagnose yourself or anyone else. Leave that up to the professionals. However, if you notice more than a few of the bipolar disorder symptoms you saw listed above, that is sufficient reason to get a psychiatric evaluation. If you know you have bipolar disorder or someone you care about does, Harmony Oaks Recovery can help. Treatment for bipolar disorder can help patients stabilize their condition and make progress when they’ve been stuck in a rut for a while. If you have questions about treatment for mental health, give Harmony Oaks Recovery a call at (423) 708-4961 or connect through our contact page here.

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