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Author: Dr Simon SurguladzeConsultant Psychiatrist

Symptoms of Bipolar disorders (mania, hypomania and depression) are experienced in different ways by different people, so finding a clinician who is able to really take the time to understand your symptoms is key to an accurate diagnosis. We can help.


Bipolar symptoms: mania

Bipolar disorder is commonly misdiagnosed as the symptoms are similar to other conditions like depression, ADHD, personality disorders or addictions. Manic episodes don’t necessarily mean feeling elation – they can mean feeling incredibly irritable or even angry.

A manic episode is characterised by some or all of the following symptoms:

Energised:

  • Not needing to sleep as much
  • Feeling energised and highly motivated
  • Being awake very late at night
  • Not being able to switch off
  • Pacing, foot tapping, fidgeting
  • Feeling restless and on the go
  • Feeling hugely creative / entrepreneurial, starting many new projects but not achieving much

Talkative:

  • Being more talkative than normal
  • Incohesive talking patterns

Behaviours:

  • Feeling overly important or special
  • Spending sprees
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Investments that are risky or foolish
  • Behaviours that are dangerous (e.g. driving too fast)
  • Feeling excited
  • Feeling irritable, angry or having angry / violent outbursts

Thoughts:

  • Disoriented thoughts
  • Thoughts that move from one thing to another quickly
  • Being easily distracted
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
  • Paranoia or delusions

2/3 of people with Bipolar have a relative with Bipolar Disorder or major depression


Bipolar symptoms: hypomania

Hypomania is a less extreme version of mania and may not be as easy to identify. Hypomania is experienced by those who have Bipolar 2, cyclothymia or rapid cycling Bipolar.

People with hypomania often don’t get the ‘highs’ that you might associate with Bipolar disorder – in fact it’s common to feel intensely irritated, anxious or angry during hypomania.

You might find that you are more energised and motivated to get things done and may find you are talking and thinking faster. It’s common to experience many of the symptoms described in mania above , but to a lesser degree. Others may not even notice that anything is particularly wrong.

My symptoms were passed over as depression for years and basically left untreated. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder after seeing a very well qualified psychiatrist through Clinical Partners and now have the right medication – which has made all the difference.

Jane, Southampton


Bipolar symptoms: depression

Manic depression is another term used for Bipolar disorder. It identifies that someone with Bipolar will experience manic episodes and will also experience episodes of depression.

Depressive episodes can be major depressive or can be episodes of milder symptoms.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and that things will never get better
  • Changes to sleep patterns – sleeping a great deal or not being able to get to sleep
  • Changes to appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Thinking of death (but not of suicide)
  • Tearfulness
  • Feeling overwhelmed

People with hypomania usually find psychologically plausible explanations to their elated mood, e.g. some positive life events which may indeed make someone happy. It takes detailed analysis to identify the mood swings that occur independently from any real life events, or changes in behaviour that seems out of control.
MD, PhD, DSc

Consultant Psychiatrist
London

Dr Surguladze is a psychiatrist with over 30 years of clinical and academic experience in various areas of mental health.

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