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Bipolar DisorderBipolar Signs & Symptoms

Let's Talk About the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

We've got the doctor-vetted details on how to tell if you, or a loved one, is experiencing the mania or depression classic to bipolar.

    Our Pro PanelBipolar Disorder Symptoms

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in bipolar disorder to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Po Wang, M.D. headshot

    Po Wang, M.D.Psychiatrist and Clinic Chief

    Bipolar Disorders Clinic at Stanford University Department of Psychiatry
    Amit Anand, M.D. headshot

    Amit Anand, M.D.Professor and Vice-Chair for Research

    Center for Behavioral Health at the Cleveland Clinic
    Linda Hubbard, L.M.F.T. headshot

    Linda Hubbard, L.M.F.T.Therapist

    Department of Behavioral Health, Psychiatry & Psychology at the Mayo Clinic
    How Bipolar Messes with Time
    Mental Health

    The Biggest Myths About Living with Mental Illness

    Those that have a mental illness know that these myths are exactly that: myths. Take a look for yourself.

    Frequently Asked QuestionsBipolar Disorder Symptoms

    What are the signs of bipolar in a woman?

    Bipolar looks the same in women and men in terms of the signs of mania and depression. The differences scientists have found are that women are more likely than men to…

    • Go through rapid cycling—many mood ups and downs in a given year.
    • Experience mixed episodes, when mania and depression happen at the same time or in quick succession without a stretch of time in between.
    • Have bipolar II.

    What is the difference between bipolar 1 and 2?

    The main difference is the intensity of the manic episodes. Mania for a person with bipolar I is indisputable: Not only is it noticeable to everyone around the person, it is often so debilitating that the person is unable to function, and it may even lead to psychosis, necessitating hospitalization. Mania for a person with bipolar II is less severe. It’s called hypomania, and though it can vary in intensity, it’s far less obvious than the mania in bipolar 1. In fact, it can sometimes be subtle enough that those around the bipolar person barely see anything unusual, and if you’re experiencing it, you may function relatively normally day to day.

    How can I recognize bipolar disorder in someone?

    Someone with bipolar might seem like a pinball machine, bouncing all over. They may exaggerate their accomplishments, may be distractible or irritated, and may engage in risky behaviors like having unsafe sex or taking drugs. Or, if they’re in a depressive phase instead of a manic one, they may seem exactly the opposite—appearing sad or lethargic, claiming they’re worthless, or eating too much or too little, and they may show little interest in activities they usually enjoy. The main thing to look out for with all of these behaviors is: Is this behavior out of the norm for this person?

    What is rapid cycling bipolar?

    Rapid cycling is when a person with bipolar disorder experiences four or more periods of mania and depression within one year. Rapid cycling can happen continually, or it can happen during one year, then never again. While anyone can experience rapid cycling, it’s more common in women than men, and more common in bipolar II than I.

    Leslie Pepper

    Leslie Pepper

    Leslie Pepper is a freelance writer specializing in health, nutrition, fitness, and wellness.