Manic Depression: Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Manic depression is a an older term for bipolar disorder. Manic depression symptoms consist of major depressive episodes as well as manic episodes or milder hypomanic episodes. Like many other mental health professionals, when I see a new client who reports symptoms of depression, I also screen for bipolar disorder. Unless mental health clients are aware of the symptoms of bipolar mania, they are more likely to report only their depressive symptoms.

An accurate diagnosis is essential in order to receive the proper treatment. Therefore, recognizing the symptoms and signs of bipolar disorder and reporting them to your doctor or therapist are essential steps to receiving the help that you need.

Some individuals may have difficulty in recognizing bipolar disorder symptoms in themselves, so I often give clients a list of the symptoms and ask them to share the list with someone who knows them well and can give them appropriate feedback. If you think you may have bipolar disorder, you may find it helpful to review the signs and symptoms with someone you trust.

Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General lists the criteria for a major depressive and manic episodes, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). Signs and symptoms of a major depressive episode include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • A loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Significant weight gain or weight loss without dieting, or an increase or decrease in appetite
  • Experiencing either insomnia or an excessive amount of sleep
  • Psychomotor agitation (for example, pacing, nail biting, or difficulty sitting still) or psychomotor retardation (such as walking and working at slower paces or speaking more slowly and less frequently than usual)
  • Fatigue or a loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, excessive feelings of guilt, or feeling guilty about situations for which you are not at fault
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Suicidal thoughts

Manic episodes include:

  • An elevated or irritable mood
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity (which can be delusional)
  • Decreased need for sleep, sometimes needing only two hours of sleep to feel rested, and in some cases, being able to go three days with no sleep at all without feeling tired
  • Being more talkative than usual, an urge to keep talking, or rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts that often shift from one topic to another
  • Being easily distracted by unimportant situations
  • An increase in goal-directed activity, and often the goals are grandiose and unrealistic
  • Reckless or excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for negative consequences (such as overspending, excessive gambling, or sexual indiscretions)

Some people with bipolar disorder experience mixed episodes, which, as the name implies, includes signs and symptoms of both major depressive and manic episodes. The mood swings of bipolar disorder tend to be more rapid during a mixed episode. states that a mixed episode is often informally described as “rapid cycling” bipolar disorder, but explains that rapid cycling technically consists of at least four major depressive, manic, mixed or hypomanic episodes within a 12-month period.

Bipolar symptoms in kids often present themselves differently than bipolar symptoms in adults.  Demitri Papolos, MD and Janice Papolos, authors of The Bipolar Child, believe that the DSM-IV needs to be updated to reflect what bipolar disorder looks like in children. They assert that children with bipolar disorder may experience rapid mood shifts many times throughout the day. Papolos and Papolos say that children with bipolar disorder can be very oppositional, defiant, and easily frustrated. They often have difficulty making transitions.  They may experience prolonged temper tantrums that often lead to aggression or violence. Many of them have horrible nightmares.

If you believe you or your child may have bipolar disorder, consult with a physician or mental health professional. He or she may choose to refer you to a psychiatrist for an evaluation to confirm or rule out the diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.

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8 Comments

  • what should be done person living with bipolar patient ? recently my boyfriend admitted that he suffered bipolar. but i love him so much, never leave him only coz it. please tell me, what shoud i do to support him, what should i do to cope his bipolar, how abt our kid later? thank so much for informations n suggestions..

  • I’m bipolar 🙂 I have two professional jobs. I went completely off my meds and nearly destroyed my life. I’m better now (and kept both of my jobs 🙂 )

  • This is a sad disorder to have and it is difficult to diagnose. I believe that some doctors are diagnosing this more and more because it is similar to manic depression. I have recently been diagnosed with this and it is a hard thing to deal with but my faith in god has helped me get the help to make it through each and every day here is an article that i wrote they may be of some help for those of you who are scared to get the help that you need…..http://mommyblogsnet.org/2011/04/being-a-full-time-mom-with-bi-polar-ii-disorder/

  • before being diagnosed lost the best job i loved! refinery job professional making good money! tried suicide went to drugs down hill for two years total depression! on meds trying to get life back shitty job slaving loading boxes for ups for hardly and money part time! doing everything right! wheres the happy ending? living with family after being homeless etc! no success story! sad to say!

  • @looser

    hello friend… dont desperate! we are here to help and support each other. need patience and strength to get out from this disease! let raise up!, definitely u can!!!

  • not a @looser

    It sounds like it took you a while to get where you are. It will take a while to get back to where you should be ;)…

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