Am I Bipolar? (How to know)

In this How-to-know guide, we will discuss how to recognize what means to be bipolar, the signs of Bipolar disorder, types, risk factors and you can even find a useful self-test that can help you identify if you might need to seek professional help for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Am I Bipolar?: what it really means

Bipolar disorder, sometimes known as manic depression, is considered a chronic mental illness that falls under the category of mood disorders.

It has been characterized by disruptive shifts in your mood, going from high to low and vice versa.

Furthermore, it is important to identify the types of bipolar disorder since the symptoms can vary.

You may find yourself wondering “am I Bipolar?” and we can tell you that being bipolar is more common than you think and most importantly you are not alone!.

The first symptoms might even manifest during someone’s late teens or early adult years, but it can also be present during childhood.

Additionally, the bipolar diagnosis seems to be more prevalent in women than men even though it is not clear as to why the tendency.

According to the World Health Organization, this condition is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide.

Statistics have shown that the rates of diagnosis are rising and also have shown that 20 percent of the people that suffer from Bipolar disorder commit suicide. 

Even though diagnosing this condition can be quite challenging, there are some signs and symptoms to be aware of which can help when seeking professional help.

Signs to be conscious of, to raise awareness 

Early signs and symptoms can vary since some of these symptoms can be confused with other conditions such as ADHD, schizophrenia, psychosis, among others, making the diagnosis challenging since the symptoms may vary from one person to the other.

Here is a list of some of the key signs and characteristics related to manic episodes:

  1. A decreased or no need to sleep, leading to chronic insomnia.
  2. Engaging in risky behaviors with no concern over the consequences, such as gambling, having unprotected sex or going on big spending sprees.
  3. Feeling restless or having intense feelings of joy and euphoria which don’t seem to fade over time.
  4. Being over-optimistic about your abilities.
  5. Talking very fast, often accompanied by racing thoughts.
  6. Becoming easily distracted.
  7. Feeling anxious or nervous over a prolonged period of time.
  8. Feeling extremely happy over long periods of time.

Like mania, bipolar depression can be identified through the following key signs :

  1. Thinking of suicide or attempting to commit suicide.
  2. Withdrawing from family and friends.
  3. Having difficulties making decisions, concentrating or constantly forgetting things.
  4. A significant change in your appetite.
  5. Losing your interest in activities that you liked or enjoyed doing before.
  6. Feeling fatigued or drained.
  7. Feeling hopeless or sad for long periods of time. 
  8. Constantly feeling guilty or ashamed.
  9. Feelings of boredom and emptiness.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Mental health professionals base their diagnosis in the criteria specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 (most updated version).

Here are the subtypes of Bipolar Disorder that can be expected to be found:

Bipolar Disorder I

This is considered the most severe form of the disorder because of the strong, pervasive symptoms of both mania and depression.

When getting this type of diagnosis, the person should have experienced a manic episode for a week or longer.

Bipolar Disorder II

Within this subtype, depression symptoms are experienced with high intensity and mania appears to be muted (known as hypomania).

Symptoms related to hypomania are less impactful and usually, they are not as disabling as when being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I. 

Bipolar Disorder, not otherwise specified

With this subtype, people experience the typical symptoms of depression and mania but they tend to manifest randomly and as unpredictable patterns with a variation in intensity and duration.

Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

With this subtype, people experience a cyclical pattern between the periods of mania and depression which are shorter in nature in comparison to the other subtypes.

To be diagnosed, you must have experienced at least two complete depression/mania cycles in one year to meet the diagnostic criteria.

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

This is the less disabling and intense of all the subtypes. Here you can have mild states of depression that tend to alternate with periods of hypomania.

To meet the diagnostic criteria, you must have experienced alternating periods of mild depression and hypomania in the course of two years or longer.

Risk factors of Bipolar Disorder

Professionals within the mental health field have identified three of the most significant risks and they are:

Genetics

According to scientific research, the chance of developing Bipolar disorder increases (between 15-30 percent) if your mother or father suffers from this condition and even more so if both your parents have been diagnosed as bipolar (50-75 percent).

Brain structure

Imaging technics have been useful for identifying subtle differences in the Bipolar brain, in terms of size and activation in some of the regions involved in the regulation of emotions, motivation, and inhibition.

Environment

Being exposed to various types of psychological, physical or emotional trauma and stress-related situations can contribute to developing this condition (e.g. financial difficulties, going through a divorce, a death in the family,etc.). 

Bipolar disorder treatment

Fortunately, treatment for bipolar disorder has been proven to be highly effective.

Here is a list of the most recommended treatment options by clinicians. 

Psychotherapy

Psychoeducation and support groups play a key role in therapeutic success. One of the most documented and effective treatments is based on Cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and principles.

The main focus is to achieve changes in negative thinking and the behavior associated with depression by recognizing negative thoughts and teaching coping strategies.

Simultaneously, giving priority to stress regulation and self-care helps the person to recognize the onset and patterns for the symptoms and can them more effectively.

Furthermore, involving family and friends in supporting and helping the individual suffering from Bipolar Disorder will lead to achieving therapeutic goals throughout the treatment plan.

Medication

The specific medication would be recommended for each particular case and depending on the type of bipolar disorder after being assessed by a professional licensed clinician. Some of the most common medications are:

  • Lithium
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Second-Generation Antipsychotics (SGAs)
  • Standard Antidepressants

Self-management strategies 

The main idea here is to get educated and informed about this condition to be able to recognize the early symptoms during an episode, act quicker and be able to seek help if needed.

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ’s)

How do you find out if you are bipolar?

To be able to find out and get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you must have had at least one manic or hypomanic episode.

In the case of manic behavior, signs will include an uncomfortable mood.

What are the signs of bipolar in a woman?

Common signs in both men and women can include but are not limited to:

– Feeling high or irritated

– Being hyperactive and feeling you have more energy than you normally do.

– Feeling that your self-esteem has improved tremendously or feeling you can do anything.

– Feeling you don’t need to sleep at all.

– Having an unusually fast pace when talking.

– Having an accelerated speech flow and having your thoughts all over the place.

– Getting distracted more easily.

Does a bipolar person know when they are manic?

A person going through the manic phase of bipolar disorder won’t really notice it.

If you’re experiencing a manic episode, you will sleep very little, your words will come out at a very fast pace when talking to someone and will feel hyperactive.

You may also have the sensation that you are invincible, all-powerful, or destined for greatness.

Is Bipolar genetic?

Genetics in bipolar disorder have some of the blame but not entirely, especially with such complex disorder so multiple factors have been identified.

Researches believe there is a genetic predisposition that increases the probability of having bipolar disorder.

What triggers bipolar?

Triggers or the cause for bipolar disorder can be a combination of multiple factors, in fact, researchers have identified that hormonal imbalances, environmental factors such as having a significant loss, mental stress, being abused or any other traumatic event can contribute to triggering the disorder.

So… “Am I Bipolar?”: Quiz time!

Here is a short and useful quiz to help answer the question “am I Bipolar?”. It will aid to identify some of the signs of being bipolar (by no means is intended to give you a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder or replace a complete assessment from a mental health professional).

If you think you might be bipolar after taking the quiz “am I bipolar?” we advise seeking professional guidance.

Please feel free to comment on the content or ask any questions in the comments section below.

Why is the blog post “am I Bipolar?” important…

We discussed what being bipolar means, how to identify the signs, types, diagnostic criteria, risk factors, and treatment options.

Now you should have a more clear concept and idea to answer the initial question of “am I Bipolar?” and what you can do next. 

Want to know more?

  1. Am I Bipolar or Waking Up?
  1. The Bipolar Disorder Workbook: Powerful Tools and Practical Resources for Bipolar II and Cyclothymia
  1. Searching for Brighter Days: Learning to Manage my Bipolar Brain
  1. Bipolar Disorder – The Ultimate Guide
  1. Bipolar UK (Bipolar UK mood scale) 

What we recommend for Bipolar disorder

Professional counselling

If you have Bipolar disorder, then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

 

References

Web MD. Do I have Bipolar Disorder?

Medical News Today. How to spot symptoms of bipolar disorder in yourself

Healthline. Could It Be Bipolar Disorder? 14 Signs to Look for.

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