What is bipolar disorder?
There are two commonly diagnosed types of bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterised by mood swings from emotional highs to lows. People with bipolar I have depression alternating with severely elevated mood, or mania. Bipolar II is much more common, and is marked by less severe manic symptoms, called hypomania. Since the characteristics of bipolar disorder exist along a spectrum ranging from non-existent to extreme, and because good or bad moods can be a result of temporary events or circumstances rather than a mental illness, diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be difficult. These signs will reveal if you’re going through a phase or revealing bipolar symptoms.
You’re downright depressed
A bipolar person in a depressive state will have the same symptoms as someone who has only depression. “They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have ‘plain old depression,’” psychiatrist, Dr Don Malone, tells Health. The period of mania, or elevated mood, that follows the depression is what differentiates a bipolar diagnosis. It’s important to discuss fluctuations in mood with your therapist because the treatment for depression will be different from bipolar disorder treatment. “Antidepressants can be downright dangerous in people with bipolar because they can send them into mania,” says Dr Malone. Signs of depression include: feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time, withdrawal from family or friends, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, significant changes in appetite, lack of energy, slow speech, problems concentrating, and preoccupation with death.
You can’t sleep
It’s common to have periods of insomnia due to stress or anticipation of something exciting on the horizon. But someone in a manic phase of bipolar disorder will require significantly less sleep than usual (sometimes none at all) for days at a time – and still feel energised. During a depressive phase, a person may sleep for longer than usual. Professor of psychiatry, Dr Carrie Bearden, tells Health that staying on a regular sleep schedule is one of the first things she recommends for bipolar patients.