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Recognize the 11 Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder – Get Informed
It took years for Carrie Cantwell and Dave Mowry to receive their bipolar disorder diagnoses. Cantwell experienced uncontrollable energy bursts and extreme lows, while Mowry cycled between intense anxiety and mania. It wasn’t until they hit rock bottom that they sought treatment and found the right combination of therapies to manage their symptoms. If you’re experiencing similar mood swings, seek help and get a diagnosis to start your journey to recovery.
Diagnostic Delays: A Common Experience in the Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
It is not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to experience delays in diagnosis, according to data. The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) estimate that approximately 2.8 percent of U.S. adults and 2.9 percent of U.S. adolescents have bipolar disorder. A study published in BMC Psychiatry in February 2020 found that it can take as long as 10 to 15 years for people with bipolar disorder to be diagnosed.
Delay in diagnosis is problematic, as untreated bipolar disorder often leads to greater disability and higher healthcare costs, according to the study’s authors. Repeated mood episodes are associated with a worsened prognosis, according to another study published in February 2016 in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. People with bipolar disorder also face a nine-year reduction in their expected lifespan compared with people without the condition, primarily due to an increased risk of suicide. People with bipolar disorder also have an increased risk of life-threatening physical illnesses such as diabetes, as explained in research published in July 2016 in the International Journal of Bipolar Disorders. Early recognition of bipolar disorder is critical to address the problem quickly.
Unfortunately, identifying bipolar disorder can sometimes be difficult, as Cantwell’s and Mowry’s stories reveal. While not every sign on the following list necessarily confirms a diagnosis, they can be suggestive of bipolar disorder and should be evaluated by a mental health professional.
Here are 11 signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder to watch for:
6 Warning Signs of Mania
A manic episode is when a person with bipolar disorder feels unusually elated, energetic, or irritable for at least one week, commonly leading to hospitalization, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The signs of mania can include:
Someone experiencing mania often feels much more energetic, jumpy, or wired than usual, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Uncharacteristically Risky Behavior
Under the influence of mania, an individual with bipolar disorder can act in risky or dangerous ways they wouldn’t ordinarily act, say Mayo Clinic experts. This could include heavy drinking, gambling, and using drugs.
Talking Very Quickly
Unusual talkativeness — talking a lot or very rapidly — is another hallmark sign of mania, say Mayo Clinic experts.
Exaggerated Sense of Self Worth
Grandiosity, or a wildly exaggerated sense of personal importance, may also accompany mania, according to Mayo Clinic.
Decreased Need for Sleep
People experiencing a manic episode may feel like they don’t need sleep, still feeling energetic even when running on significantly little sleep, say APA experts.
Irritability or agitation can also signal a manic episode, according to Mayo Clinic.
5 Warning Signs of Depression
The deep lows of bipolar disorder are known as depressive episodes. These kinds of episodes last at least two weeks and interfere with an individual’s ability to function, according to the APA. The signs can include:
Sadness and Hopelessness
People having a depressive episode experience deep sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, and tearfulness, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Loss of Interest
Loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies is another sign of a depressive episode.
Fatigue, decreased energy, and reduced activity levels are also common signs of depression.
Changes in Appetite
Changes in appetite, including overeating or not eating enough, may accompany depression.
Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions are also common during depressive episodes.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to seek professional help.
How to Find Assistance for Bipolar Disorder
If you or a loved one exhibits signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s essential to know that the condition can be treated effectively. Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can be managed with a combination of medication, therapy, and certain lifestyle changes.
According to Betzler, “One-quarter to 30 percent of people with the disorder have the ability to function and go to work with proper treatment, which keeps them motivated to continue it.” The stories of recovery and improvement after experiencing severe illness are incredibly inspiring.
Managing bipolar disorder involves a lifelong commitment to your treatment plan, identifying your triggers, and being vigilant for warning signs of impending problems.
As Cantwell explains, “This is an ongoing journey where you must manage everything from sleep to triggers to medication. You are continually confronted with new situations where you must take care of yourself, but the key to success is combining self-regulation, education, and therapy.”