Bipolar Disorder Signs & Symptoms

Rolling Hills Hospital helps individuals struggling with bipolar disorder build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Ada, near Oklahoma City, Rolling Hills Hospital is the premier provider of mental health & addiction treatment for adolescents, adults & seniors.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness that involves drastic shifts mood, is a disorder that can cause a great deal of destruction and devastation in a person’s life. Symptoms of bipolar disorder often involve episodes of mania, or heightened emotional excitability, and episodes of depression, or extreme emotional lows marked by sadness and feelings of hopelessness. Individuals experiencing these episodes may have more episodes of mania more often than depression and vice versa. These episodes also have the capability of hindering functioning in a number of settings and circumstances, making life with bipolar disorder very difficult when treatment is not being received to alleviate symptoms.

Seeking treatment to determine which type of bipolar disorder is present, bipolar I, bipolar II, or cyclothymia, and receiving care that can reduce the impact of symptoms on a person’s life can greatly improve the lives of those battling this mental illness.What is important to know is that sufferers of this mental health condition can find lasting relief from this distressing disorder.


Bipolar disorder statistics

Bipolar disorder is said to affect people of all ages. With the typical age of onset being 25, research estimates that six million people, or 3% of the total population, suffer from this mental health condition. New research suggests that children and adolescents are now presenting with bipolar disorder symptoms at earlier ages than originally thought, though the number of younger people battling this condition has yet to be accurately calculated.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

The specific, isolated cause for bipolar disorder has yet to be realized. Therefore, experts in the field of mental health concur that the development of this mental health condition occurs as a result of genetic, physical, and environmental influences. Consider the following explanations and risk factors for bipolar disorder:

Genetic: A person’s genetic history is widely believed to be a major determinant for the development of bipolar disorder. Individuals with a first-degree relative, namely a biological parent, who has this mental health disorder have a 15 to 25 percent greater chance for eventually being diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well. Because of this finding, bipolar disorder is said to be heritable.

Physical: As with other mental illnesses in which mood fluctuations occur, bipolar disorder is believed to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. When these imbalances are present, an individual will present with varying moods, poor impulse control, and emotional excitability, of which are symptoms synonymous with bipolar disorder.

Environmental: Many experts in the field of mental health agree that the abuse of certain drugs can trigger or exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Moreover, other environmental influences, such as experiencing trauma, chronic stress, or exposure to violence, can lead to the onset of bipolar disorder symptoms. These environmental influences can be especially impactful when a person has a genetic predisposition to bipolar disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of bipolar disorder
  • Family history of another mental illness
  • History of exposure to trauma
  • Being the victim of abuse or neglect
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Exposure to chronic stress 

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The signs and symptoms that infer a person is struggling with bipolar disorder can vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder present. Consider the following behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms, denoted as those occurring during manic and depressive episodes, when trying to deduce if you or a loved one is suffering from this mental health condition:

Behavioral symptoms (manic episode): 

  • Behaving in a grandiose manner
  • Rapid speech
  • Inability to remain focused in conversation
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Increased aggression
  • Inability to multitask
  • Hypersexuality

Behavioral symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Poor school performance
  • Hindered occupational functioning
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide attempts

Physical symptoms (manic episode):

  • Fluctuations in body temperature
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness

Physical symptoms (depressive episode): 

  • Decreased energy
  • Requiring a lot or very little sleep
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss

Cognitive symptoms (manic episode): 

  • Rapid thought processes
  • Lack of focus
  • Poor concentration

Cognitive symptoms (depressive episode): 

  • Slowed thinking
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor decision-making
  • Hallucinations

Psychosocial symptoms (manic episode):

  • Agitation
  • Increased excitability
  • Irritability
  • Feeling invincible
  • Grandiose feelings

Psychosocial symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Declined interest in things that were once considered pleasurable
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Increased worry
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal ideations


Effects of bipolar disorder

Untreated bipolar disorder can elicit a number of devastating effects in a person’s life. Especially if symptoms persist for a long time, the effects have the possibility of becoming life-threatening:

  • Academic failure
  • Inability to maintain employment
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Financial strife
  • Decrease in quantity and/or quality of interpersonal relationships
  • Substance use
  • Self-injury
  • Suicide attempts
  • Death as a result of suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders

Because of the fluctuating moods associated with bipolar disorder and the distress that can come with the symptoms of this mental health condition, it is not uncommon for a person to meet diagnostic criteria for another mental health condition. Below are disorders that are known to occur alongside bipolar disorder:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Specific phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Substance use disorders

So thankful to have made some great friends at Rolling Hills who could understand what I was going through.

– Former Patient