It can be difficult to accurately diagnose bipolar disorder as the symptoms can often mimic other conditions, such as depression. However, proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial to effectively manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings, including periods of elevated mood and energy (known as mania) and periods of low mood and decreased energy (known as depression).
Bipolar disorder is highly disruptive and can severely impair daily living or lead to other potentially life-threatening complications, including suicidal ideations. It is estimated that approximately 2.6 percent of the US adult population, or around 5.7 million people aged 18 years and above, have bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder vs. Depression: Understanding the Difference
It’s important to distinguish bipolar disorder from depression, as the treatment for these conditions can differ. While both conditions involve periods of low mood, there are key differences between the two.
One of the main differences is the presence of mania or hypomania (a less severe form of mania) in bipolar disorder. This elevated mood can manifest as abnormal or excessive elation, energy, and activity levels. In contrast, depression is characterized by low mood and decreased energy and activity levels.
One of the main reasons why bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed is because manic episodes are not always severe enough to be immediately recognizable.
Signs That You May Have Bipolar Disorder
There are several noticeable signs that may indicate you have bipolar disorder. These include:
- Abnormal or excessive elation or energy: During a manic episode, people with bipolar disorder may feel an abnormal or excessive amount of elation or energy. They may feel like they are on top of the world and can do anything. They may also engage in risky or reckless behavior.
- Racing thoughts and speech: People with bipolar disorder may experience racing thoughts and speech during a manic episode. They may talk rapidly and have difficulty focusing on a single topic.
- Illusions of grandeur: People with bipolar disorder may have grandiose thinking during a manic episode. They may have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, feel invincible, or believe they can accomplish anything.
- Reduced need for sleep: People with bipolar disorder may experience a decreased need for sleep during a manic episode. They may be able to go without sleep for days at a time – which can further exacerbate their symptoms.
- Irritability: Bipolar disorder can also cause irritability, especially during a manic or hypomanic episode. People with bipolar disorder may become easily agitated or have outbursts of anger for no apparent reason.
- Excessive alcohol or drug abuse: People with bipolar disorder may overuse alcohol or drugs in an attempt to cope with or overcome their symptoms. And while substance abuse may initially seem to provide temporary relief, it can have catastrophic consequences in the long run.
- Work issues: Bipolar disorder can also cause problems with work, as it can affect a person’s energy levels, motivation, and ability to focus or finish tasks. People with bipolar disorder often struggle to meet deadlines or perform at their usual level during manic or depressive episodes.
- Depression: While manic episodes tend to take center stage in bipolar disorder, depression is also a hallmark of bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder often experience periods of deep, prolonged sadness and low mood – where they feel apathetic, hopeless, and helpless.
If you often experience any of the above symptoms, it’s crucial to seek professional help as soon as possible. Bipolar disorder is a treatable condition, and early medical intervention has been linked to better treatment outcomes.
A mental health professional will help you find the best treatment plan for your individual needs. They can also provide support and guidance on how to manage your symptoms so you can live a happy, productive life.