How Do I Know If I Have Bipolar Disorder?

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If you have symptoms that resemble bipolar disorder, such as intense mood swings, you might be wondering if you have the disorder. Perhaps others have suggested that you have some signs of bipolar disorder. Either way, you want to know whether you could possibly have bipolar disorder, and if so, what might happen next.

Let’s take a look at what bipolar disorder looks like for different people, how to find out if you have it, and how bipolar disorder is usually treated.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder usually alternate between states of mania (or hypomania) and depression. Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that can impact relationships, work, finances, and emotional well-being. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to attempt suicide than others.

Thankfully, there are effective treatments available for bipolar disorder, but bipolar disorder is a chronic condition and requires lifelong treatment.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

How Common Is Bipolar Disorder?

Most people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in their late teens or early adult years but others don’t get a proper diagnosis till much later. Bipolar disorder affects about 2.8% of Americans; of those, 83% have a case of bipolar disorder that would be characterized as “severe.”

Who Is Most Likely to Have Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar can affect anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background. Most research indicates that bipolar disorder affects males and females equally. However, research analysis from 2021 indicates that women may be somewhat more likely to have bipolar disorder than men.

While anyone can have bipolar disorder no matter their background, there are certain individuals who are more likely to have it than others. For example:

  • Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, so if you have a close family member who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be more likely to be diagnosed yourself
  • Experts believe certain genes and chromosomal differences may be responsible for the development of bipolar disorder
  • Stress on its own doesn’t cause bipolar disorder, but stressful events and traumatic events may trigger a manic or depressive episode
  • Environmental triggers, such as drugs/alcohol, or lack of sleep may be also be a trigger
  • Brain differences and chemical imbalances may play a role in the development of bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Bipolar disorder presents differently from one person to another. Additionally, the disorder will have different symptoms depending on whether you are experiencing a depressive state or a manic one. The mood episodes of bipolar disorder can last for several days, weeks, or even months.

Signs of Mania

If you are experiencing a manic episode of bipolar depression, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • High energy—notably much more energy than usual
  • Feeling invincible
  • More prone to irritability
  • Feeling like you don’t need much sleep
  • Talking faster
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feeling like you have a lot to say; going from one topic to another in quick succession
  • Feeling extremely productive and creative
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • May be unable to function normally and fulfill daily responsibilities
  • May experience psychosis, which cay include hallucinations, hearing voices, and delusions

Hypomania

Hypomania is a more subdued form of mania. You may experience many of the same symptoms as people who are manic, but you won’t experience psychosis, and you will be more able to function on a day-to-day basis. People who experience hypomania more than mania may not realize that they have bipolar disorder, because their symptoms may be less obvious.

Signs of Depressive Episodes

Depressive episodes of bipolar depression can be debilitating and severe. Here are some signs that you may be experiencing a depressive episode:

  • Heavy feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of desperation
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Thinking you are worthless
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
  • Changing in eating patterns, including loss of appetite or eating excessively
  • Trouble focusing
  • Restlessness or slowed down feeling
  • Suicidal thoughts

How to Find Out If You Have Bipolar Disorder

Because bipolar disorder resembles other mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or depression, it’s important to get a formal diagnosis of the disorder to be sure that it’s what you are experiencing. Getting properly diagnosed also ensures that you will receive the best treatment.

Taking the first steps toward diagnosis can be scary, but knowing what is going on with you, and getting help, means you are that much closer to feeling more like yourself again.

Getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis usually first involves visiting your healthcare provider. They will do a physical exam and may order blood work. Blood testing can’t tell you if you have bipolar disorder, but it can rule out medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms such as thyroid imbalances.

If your provider believes you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, they will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist for a formal diagnosis. Usually, bipolar disorder is diagnosed if you show a pattern of alternating major depression with mania or hypomania. You have to have had at least one occurrence of mania or hypomania to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Treatment for bipolar disorder usually involves a holistic approach, combining mediation, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Medication is the foundation of bipolar treatment, and most people need to be on medication for the rest of their lives. Treatment for bipolar disorder works; the sooner and more diligently you treat it, the better.

Medications

There are various medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder, and treatment plans may vary depending on your symptoms, medical history, and how you react to a particular medication. Options for treatment include:

  • Mood stabilizers, such as lithium
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Antidepressants

Therapy

Therapy for bipolar disorder is important and can help people understand what’s going on with them, and what they can do to keep their symptoms in check. Therapy is an important way that people with bipolar disorder to prevent future episodes. Your therapist can also help ensure that you continue to take your medication and that other behavioral and lifestyle changes are adhered to.

Types of therapy used for bipolar disorder include:

Other Treatments

Lifestyle and behavioral changes are vital when it comes to treating bipolar disorder and maintaining a healthy state. People with bipolar benefit from:

  • Getting enough sleep and sticking to a regular sleep schedule and routine
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet and eating regularly
  • Journaling and keeping a mood diary can be helpful
  • Joining a bipolar disorder support group can help you feel less alone and help you keep up with your treatment plan
  • Reducing drug and alcohol use is important
  • Checking in regularly with your care team is a must, as is sticking to your medication treatment plan

A Word From Verywell

Learning the symptoms of bipolar disorder can be helpful, and can be eye-opening for someone who suspects they may have the disorder. Still, the only way you can know for sure that you have bipolar disorder is to visit your healthcare provider for an evaluation.

It’s important that people with bipolar disorder receive thorough treatment, so don’t delay getting a diagnosis. Taking that first step can be frightening but getting proper treatment for bipolar disorder is the first step on your journey of healing and wellness.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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