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Exaclty, what are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Posted by Kayla

Some of my family members claim that I am bipolar so I would like to know symptoms. 

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There are a lot of symptoms of bipolar disorder.  No one diagnosis is the same.  If your moods flucuate more than four times a year you might be bipolar.  You might have manic times where you might spend a lot of money or you might be able to do the jobs of three people without running out of steam.  Other times you might be depressed, unable to get out of bed, feeling like your life has no meaning or suididal.

Just because some of your family members may be making claims that you're bipolar doesn't necessarily mean you are.  You need a proper diagnosis from a psychiatrist.  I got three opinions.  There's also a questionairre on Psych Central's website that may help you.

Good luck.


Bipolar Chica

It is so hard to put a simple outline on what qualifies as a symptom of BP. It's tricky to diagnose... for one each person expresses symptoms in a different way. Second, bipolar symptoms are on a spectrum, from severe depression to severe mania and everything in between. there are different types of BP - BP I (full blown manic episodes) and BP II (depression and hypomania without full blown manic episodes), as well as other mood disorders, such as dysthymia (a milder form of depression, where a sad mood persist fro two years without manic or hypomanic episodes, and without more than two months without the symptoms) and cyclothymia (which is a milder version of bipolar where the mood swing from dysphoric to hypomanic, without have any episodes of full blown mania or depression in between).


Poke around on the internet and on Wellsphere, there are many articles which you may find helpful in gaining insight on the disorder. Certainly get a medical professionals opinion before you convince yourself you may have the disorder. Sometimes, even though our family and friends mean the best, they may not know all of the facts about the disorder. There is a lot of stigma out there, which can lead people to false conclusions. There is also a wide range of affect disorders. 


I think a good way to help yourself find what current symptoms you may present is to keep a mood journal. You can always email me ( if you want to ask questions in more detail about the different types of affect disorders and what you believe may be a symptoms that you present. Also, feel free to look at my own personal journal entries and bipolar articles (on my blog page), you may find that they help you with more information and you may be able to relate to some of my symptoms. Some of the things I write are in the midst of an emotional cycle so the words are very true to the symptom I am expressing at that time. 

Some other questions...


Are you male or female? Male's first episode is usually mania, while females usually first present with a depression episode.

How old are you? The typical age of onset for bipolar disorder is late teens and early twenties. 

Is there a history of mental illness in your family? BP has been shown to have genetic predispositions, especially if you have a first degree family member with depression, any other mood disorder, or alcoholism. 

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Here are the classical clinical symptoms of bipolar disorder, as listed in the DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Criteria for a Depressed Episode:

Five or more of the following symptoms must be present during the same two-week period and represent a change from previous functioning:

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day. In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day;
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. In children, consider failure to make expected weight gains.
  4. Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much;
  5. Feelings of restlessness, or fatigue;
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt;
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness;
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Criteria for a Manic Episode

It must be a distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 1 week (or any duration if hospitalization is necessary). There must be three or more of the following symptoms (four if the mood is only irritable), present to a significant degree:

  1. Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  2. Decreased need for sleep;
  3. More talkative than usual;
  4. Flights of ideas, or feels that thoughts are racing;
  5. Distractibility
  6. Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually);
  7. Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

Criteria for Mixed Episode

Meets the criteria for both a manic episode and a major depressive episode nearly every day during at least a 1-week period.

Criteria for Hypomanic Episode

A distinct period of persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least 4 days. Three (or more) of the following symptoms must persist (four if the mood is only irritable), and have been present to a significant degree:Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity;

  1. Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep);
  2. More talkative than usual, or feels pressure to keep talking;
  3. Flight of ideas or feels that thoughts are racing;
  4. Distractibility;
  5. Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually);
  6. Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

I would like to ask you why your family think you are bipolar?

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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