Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bayside Marin is a premier rehabilitation center dedicated to the treatment of bipolar disorder in California. Bayside Marin blends evidence-based treatments with alternative, holistic modalities to comprehensively treat all aspects of our client’s life.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes sufferers to experience significant disturbances in their ability to function on a daily basis. The mental and emotional turmoil that is elicited by the presence of bipolar disorder can render individuals susceptible to experiencing a great deal of conflict within all aspects of their day-to-day lives.

When a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is given to an individual, it is classified into one of three distinct types. These types are determined based on the symptoms present, along will the level of severity to which those symptoms are affecting his or her life. These three types are described briefly in the following:

Bipolar I is considered to be the most severe type of bipolar disorder, characterized by ricocheting emotions and such dramatic shifts in mood that it causes significant impairment in an individual’s everyday life. When people are suffering from bipolar I, they will alternate between episodes of depression and episodes of mania. The duration of time during which a person experiences a manic episode or depressive episode will vary from person to person, with some individuals experiencing shifts over prolonged periods of time, while others experience shifts much more consistently. When an individual shifts between manic episodes and depressive episodes frequently, consistently, and over short periods of time, it is known as rapid cycling.

Bipolar II is characterized by a course of recurring mood episodes that consist of at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode. Hypomanic episodes are less intrusive and less destructive than episodes of mania and do not typically inhibit a person’s ability to function appropriately, whereas episodes of mania will. It is important to distinguish that individuals suffering from bipolar II do not experience manic episodes.

Cyclothymia is viewed as being the mildest form of bipolar disorder and, while people suffering from cyclothymia experience both depressive and hypomanic symptoms, those symptoms never become severe enough to meet diagnostic criteria for an episode of major depression, mania, or hypomania.


Bipolar disorder statistics

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 2.6% of the adult population in the United States suffers from bipolar disorder. While bipolar disorder is a condition that can affect people of all ages, the average age of onset is estimated to be 25 years.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

The onset of bipolar disorder is believed by researchers and professionals in the field of mental health to be due to the presence of a number of different factors. These factors are discussed briefly in the following:

Genetic: An individual’s genetic background is said to be a highly weighted factor in whether or not he or she will experience the onset of symptoms of bipolar disorder. Research has provided evidence that when a person’s mother or father is suffering from bipolar disorder, he or she is between 15% and 25% more likely to experience symptoms of this disorder at some point in his or her lifetime than are individuals who do not share the same hereditary background. Additionally, when this type of genetic predisposition exists, and an individual does subsequently suffer from the onset of symptoms of bipolar disorder, he or she will begin experiencing those symptoms approximately ten years earlier than his or her parent did.

Environmental: When there exists a genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder in an individual, there are certain environmental circumstances that can arise that can elicit the onset of symptoms or that can exacerbate the severity of symptoms that may already be present. One example of this lies in an individual’s use of drugs and/or alcohol. If a person has a genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder and begins experimenting with these types of substances, the chemical changes that occur in the brain as a result can cause symptoms of bipolar disorder to manifest earlier than they would have should that substance abuse not have occurred. Additionally, things such as being abused, experiencing a trauma, or enduring excessively stressful life changes can also elicit the onset of symptoms of bipolar disorder, but only when a genetic predisposition for this condition exists.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of bipolar disorder
  • Family history of other mental health conditions
  • Personal history of drug and/or alcohol use
  • Presence of a preexisting mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

The signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder will vary greatly from person to person depending on the type that he or she is suffering from, whether it be bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymia. The symptoms themselves will be most noticeable during a manic episode or a depressive episode, yet may be somewhat discernable during a hypomanic episode as well. Examples of the various types of symptoms that may indicate that someone is suffering from bipolar disorder can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Rapid speech
  • Jumping from topic to topic while in conversation
  • Acting on impulse
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Hypersexuality
  • Behaving in an instigative manner
  • Acting out in sudden, unprovoked outbursts of verbal or physical aggression
  • Being frequently absent from work
  • Social withdrawal
  • Participating in self-harming behaviors
  • Excessive restlessness

Physical symptoms:

  • Alternating between needing excessive amounts of sleep or not needing any sleep at all
  • Alternating between possessing an excessive amount of energy or having a complete lack of energy
  • Teeth grinding
  • Fluctuations in one’s body temperature
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Vocal tics or motor tics
  • Heightened states of arousal

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Flight of ideas
  • Significant memory disturbances
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Concentration difficulties

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Drastic shifts in mood
  • False sense of grandiosity
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Extreme agitation
  • Excessive feelings of irritability
  • Profound, yet unwarranted, feelings of anger and rage
  • Greatly heightened feelings of anxiety
  • Fluctuating between a low self-esteem and an inflated self-esteem
  • Chronic suicidal ideation


Effects of bipolar disorder

When individuals are suffering from the symptoms of bipolar disorder and do not receive appropriate therapeutic and medicinal interventions, they are vulnerable to experiencing a number of negative consequences; consequences that can impact all areas of their lives. Examples of effects that have been known to impact individuals who do not receive treatment for bipolar disorder include:

  • Extreme conflict within social relationships
  • Familial strife
  • Divorce
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Occupational failure
  • Job loss / chronic unemployment
  • Developing an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol
  • Engaging in self-harming behaviors and suffering from the physical effects of those behaviors
  • Participation in high-risk behaviors, which can include criminal activity, that may potentially result in interaction with law enforcement
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders

While bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can occur on its own, there are instances in which individuals may suffer from symptoms of other mental illnesses in addition to the symptoms they experience as a result of bipolar disorder. While there are frequently times that the symptoms of bipolar disorder mirror or overlap the symptoms of other mental illnesses, those additional symptoms are often given an independent diagnosis. Examples of cited co-occurring disorders that have been known to present alongside bipolar disorder may include:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Other anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Substance use disorders

Trust the process. I got so much out of my stay when I came here for my bipolar disorder. I am so thankful to everyone here.

– Anonymous Client
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