Although bipolar disorder may sound better than depression, and some people enjoy the euphoric highs of the manic state, it is more dangerous and generally more disruptive to life.
Symptoms | Dangers
Bear in mind that people with Bipolar I may not exhibit any depressive state, and people with Bipolar II may primarily seem to be depressed with an occasional rebound.
During the depressive phase
- persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, guilt or hopelessness
- disturbances in sleep and appetite
- fatigue and loss of interest in daily activities
- problems concentrating or irritability
- chronic pain without a known cause
- recurring thoughts of suicide.
People in the depressive phase may be very withdrawn or moody, and may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to either bring themselves out of it or to dull the pain. At times they may find it impossible to participate in normal daily activities (getting up, getting dressed, taking a shower, going to school, writing papers, eating).
During the manic phase
People may exhibit:
- signs of euphoria or elation, extreme optimism
- rapid unstoppable flow of speech, racing thoughts
- irritability, volatility
- inappropriate sexual behavior
- excessive spending habits, recklessness, poor judgment
- hostility and aggression
- difficulty sleeping or a lesser need for sleep
- a tendency to be easily distracted, inability to concentrate
- an authoritative manner
- the tendency to believe they are in their best mental state.
The manic phase can allow rapid thinking, sudden correlating of previously unrelated information, heightened concentration for extreme periods and very little sleep, which can allow someone with bipolar to appear extremely productive. Bipolar writers/artists may be at their most productive during their manic phases.
You can test yourself to see if you may have bipolar tendencies. This is a guide, not a diagnosis, but it may be helpful to clarify your thoughts.
There is a helpful article on Wikipedia which gives the current diagnostic criteria for the different types of bipolar disorder.
Many people with bipolar don't seek help because they enjoy the highs and don't want to lose them. Despite the apparent wonderful feeling of a non-medicated high, behavior during a high and the need to manage the depression that follows make it crucial to have treatment.
In addition to that, they may push themselves into a psychotic state or make the next depressive stage worse. Manic patients may be excessively involved in various impulsive activities without recognizing the inherent cost.
This can range from crossing the road without thinking to extreme impulse buying of items including cars.
It's not unknown for people in a manic phase to think they can jump off the roof with impunity, that they're invulnerable, to play chicken with a train or car, to become repeatedly sexually involved with friends' partners or even complete strangers, or to end up in jail. (This is not the same as attempted suicide - they really think they won't die.)