Many of us experience mood swings. They are the highs and lows that cause us to feel happy one moment and alternately sad the next. However, for a person with Bipolar Disorder, these mood changes are more than just daily fluctuations in disposition. They can last for weeks and range from extreme periods of energy and grandiose thinking to lethargy and self-doubt.

Some people enjoy a “creative edge” during periods of hypomania, but the more frightening symptoms of Bipolar Disorder are reckless behavior, the inability to function, and even suicide.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Also known as manic-depressive disorder, Bipolar Disorder is a diagnosis given to a category of mood disorders that influence mood and affects about 6.1 million adults each year (National Institute of Mental Health). Although children and adolescents can show signs of Bipolar Disorder, it usually emerges in the late teens or the early twenties and can go undiagnosed for many years. Without treatment, it can be incapacitating. However, Bipolar Disorder is manageable, and the best course of treatment is a regimen of medication and therapy.

Bipolar Disorder is often inherited, but a definitive etiology has not yet been elucidated. Some people have been known to develop Bipolar Disorder after a head injury. It has also been linked to thyroid disease. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are often difficult for others to understand.

a brown haired woman in a white t-shirt lost in thought and looking up
A dark skined woman in purple lipstick, hairband, nose pierced and golden hoops looking away and laughing

Mood Shifts of Bipolar Disorder

It’s important to note that people who have Bipolar Disorder have no control over the extreme shifts in mood that they experience. They can experience many dramatic shifts in mood from severe depression to complete mania, as well as milder symptoms of both extremes. People who are going through a milder manic phase (hypomania) often report an ability to be more creative and full of ideas but are often easily frustrated or irritable.

They are spontaneous and can be overly-productive. However, as the symptoms increase, the ideas can come too quickly and they can become agitated and enraged. They may also experience little need to sleep and may feel indestructible. A manic phase will last a week or more and co-exist with at least three other symptoms of mania.

Following a manic phase, many people with Bipolar Disorder will lapse into a depression. It can be so disabling and pervasive that they may refuse to get out of bed. Friends, loved ones, and co-workers are often confused by this shift in behavior because it is so dramatically different from their earlier elevated state.

Substance Use and Bipolar Disorder

Drug and alcohol misuse are often present in people with Bipolar Disorder. They often abuse drugs to self-medicate or increase euphoric symptoms. It becomes a repetitive cycle because substance misuse can also worsen the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. In instances where substance use disorders are present, also known as dual diagnosis, it’s important to treat both diagnoses concurrently in an integrated setting.

Bipolar I Disorder is what people usually refer to when talking about manic depression. They will experience the extreme highs along with the lows and may suffer from hallucinations and/or delusions, as well. However, people diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder suffer more depression and do not experience the extreme highs in their mood. Instead, they experience what is called “hypomania,” which is a milder form of mania without the psychotic features.

a group session of interactions and listening

Signs and Symptoms of a Manic or Hypomanic Episode

  • Increased energy
  • Pressured speech
  • Poor judgment/insight
  • Increased/decreased sex drive
  • Provocative behavior
  • Euphoria
  • Grandiose thinking or delusions
  • Inappropriate humor
  • Extreme irritability
  • Disjointed thinking
  • Paranoia
  • Rapid talking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Restlessness
  • Extravagant spending sprees
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased use of drugs and alcohol
  • Lessened need for sleep
  • Creative thinking
  • Anxiety symptoms
  • Flight of ideas
  • Reckless behavior

Signs and Symptoms of a Depressive Episode

  • Depression
  • Feeling worthless
  • Daily fatigue
  • Sleeping too much
  • Insomnia
  • Physical pain
  • Irritability
  • Self-loathing
  • Memory problems
  • Restlessness
  • Diminished pleasure
  • Hopelessness
  • Inappropriate guilt
  • Appetite change
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Thoughts of death/suicide
  • Suicide attempts
  • Shame
  • Anxiety
  • Indecisiveness
  • Pessimism

(Because these symptoms in and of themselves do not always indicate the presence of Bipolar Disorder, please contact your physician or mental health treatment provider to obtain an accurate diagnosis.)

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder can be successfully managed but must be individualized based on the causes and symptoms. Bipolar Disorder treatment consists of a combination of two or more of the following mental health therapies:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Medication Therapy

Family support program


Interpersonal Therapy logo
Logo of Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR)
Logo od ARTA - American Residential Treatment Association
Logo of CARF
Logo of NATSAP - National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs
Logo of Florida Agency for Health Care Administration

We are here to help.
Call 866-321-9430 to speak with our admissions team.

contact us