8 bipolar symptoms you might be ignoring



Living with bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression) requires symptom management on a daily basis in order to avoid the excessive mood swings that can accompany the condition.

Be alert to new or changing symptoms and contact your doctor right away for help managing them. Some bipolar symptoms, like suicidal thoughts, can be life threatening.

Other serious symptoms, including the onset of mania, can affect your health, relationships—even your finances. Never ignore these eight symptoms if you have bipolar disorder.

1. Suicidal thoughts

The darkness of bipolar depression can be very hard to bear. If you find yourself feeling worthless, or you think the people you love would be better off without you, call 911 for immediate medical attention. Do not feel ashamed to ask for help if you think about harming yourself. Many people with bipolar disorder experience thoughts like these. A conversation with your doctor or therapist, along with changes to your treatment plan, may be all you need to feel more hopeful about life again.

2. Trouble sleeping

If you have difficulty sleeping for several days because you feel too “wired,” you may be entering a manic phase. In bipolar mania, a person’s energy levels surge, which can make it hard for the body to fall asleep or stay asleep. Of course, everyone experiences trouble sleeping from time to time. But if you find it consistently hard to sleep because your mind feels overly restless, then it is time to call your doctor or therapist.

3. Hallucinations

Both the manic and depressive phase of bipolar disorder can trigger hallucinations. You may see or hear things or people that aren’t really there. Oftentimes these hallucinations reflect the person’s extreme mood. For instance, a severely depressed person may hear a voice telling her to harm herself. Or a person experiencing mania may “see” and talk to celebrities visiting him in his home. If you experience hallucinations, call your doctor or therapist right away for an evaluation of these symptoms.

4. Unexplained weight loss or gain

Bipolar mania can cause you to forget to eat. Or you may be so active during a manic episode that you burn calories rapidly, leading to unintended weight loss. On the flip side, bipolar depression can provoke mindless eating as a way to self-medicate. All those extra calories can cause you to gain weight. Either of these scenarios might lead you to develop heart disease or other medical conditions. Report unintended weight loss or gain to your doctor or therapist.

5. Substance misuse or abuse

Many adults enjoy beer, wine or cocktails with friends. But mixing alcohol with medication for bipolar disorder can have fatal consequences. Beyond alcohol, some people with bipolar disorder may turn to illicit drugs to ease their symptoms of depression or mania. However, these substances interfere with your medication’s ability to work on your bipolar symptoms and can lead to addiction and serious health problems. If you feel your medication is not working well enough, don’t turn to alcohol or illicit drugs; talk to your doctor or therapist, instead.

6. Rapid mood swings

Everyone goes through the ups and downs of mood from time to time. But people with bipolar disorder may experience abnormal swings of mood and energy that require professional intervention. Shifting from deeply depressed and lethargic to elated and energetic within the space of hours, for example, may signal the onset of a manic episode that leads to reckless behavior, such as spending sprees or impulsively having sex with multiple partners. To keep your moods on an even keel, consult your doctor or therapist if you experience rapid mood swings.

7. Excessive sleep

Bipolar depression can become so debilitating that a person sleeps most of the day. If sleeping a lot makes you unable to work or care for yourself (such as showering and cooking), consult your therapist or doctor for help. In general, if a person with bipolar disorder routinely sleeps for more than 10 hours a day for at least two consecutive weeks, it may be a signal of an extreme depressive state requiring intervention.

8. Impaired decision-making ability

Both the mania and depression of bipolar disorder can impair your ability to make decisions. People in a manic state may make reckless, snap decisions in their personal or business life that lead to negative consequences, while those in bipolar depression may find making even the simplest decision—such as which pair of jeans to wear—too overwhelming to contemplate. When bipolar symptoms lead to impaired decision-making skills, then it’s time to seek professional help.