How Do I Know If I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder (previously referred to as a manic-depressive disorder) is a mental disorder that causes changes in mood, energy and activity levels, sleep, and goal-oriented activities. There are three types of Bipolar Disorder (Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder).  All three types of Bipolar disorder affect mood, activity levels, and energy.  Mood states can range from periods of elevated, energetic, elated, or irritable mood, to low moods such as depression and feelings of hopelessness.

The unique feature of Bipolar Disorder is the presence of mania.  The word “manic” is used frequently in American culture to describe states of high energy.  For example, someone might say they felt manic after they won the lottery.  The common usage of the word manic is very different from an actual manic state that occurs as part of Bipolar Disorder.  The following are symptoms of a manic episode per the DSM-5:

·      A distinct period of abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood and abnormally and persistently increased activity or energy.  This mood state lasts at least one week and is present most of the day, nearly every day.

Do I have bipolar disorder?

·      During the period of mood disturbance and increased energy or activity, three or more of the following symptoms are present to a significant degree and represent a noticeable change from usual behavior:

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep (e.g. feeling rested after only three hours of sleep)
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  • Distractibility (attention is easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant stimuli)
  • Increase in goal-directed activity
  • Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g. unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, foolish business investments, etc.)

In addition, the mood state is severe enough to cause marked impairment in important areas of functioning, and the mood state is not directly attributable to the effects of a substance (i.e. drug of abuse, medication, or medical treatment) or another medical condition.

Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed during late adolescence or early adulthood, although symptoms can sometimes occur in childhood.  Accurate diagnosis and early intervention are key to the treatment of Bipolar Disorder.  If you or someone you know experiences the symptoms mentioned above, please schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist as soon as possible. Bipolar Disorder requires lifelong treatment, and your psychiatrist can explain the best options to treat this disorder.

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