Signs & Effects of Bipolar Disorder

Red River Hospital helps individuals struggling with bipolar disorder build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Wichita Falls, TX, Red River is the leading provider of bipolar disorder treatment.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder

Affecting millions of people, bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings ranging from mania to major depressive symptoms. Ripe with a number of disruptions that can hinder functioning, there are varying levels of severity to this disorder. Severity levels are attributed to the distinction between three types of the disorder.

Bipolar I, the most severe type of bipolar disorder, causes radical shifts in mood that can greatly inhibit a person from functioning normally. Manic episodes, or emotional highs, are common and have the potential to cause a number of impulsive behaviors. Conversely, a person with bipolar I disorder will also experience downshifts in mood in the form of episodes of depression. One kind of episode can occur more than the other, however, it is important to know that the bipolar I is distinct in that a person fluctuates between these emotional highs and lows in a seemingly drastic manner.

Bipolar II is marked by severe episodes of depression. Additionally, a person with bipolar II will experience at least one hypomanic episode, though this mania is not as extreme as the mania experienced in someone diagnosed with bipolar I.

Cyclothymia involves prolonged mood disturbances. Depressive and manic episodes are included in this disorder, but cyclothymia is known to be the least severe of the bipolar types.


Bipolar disorder statistics

Equivalent to almost 3% of the population in the United States, it is estimated that six million adults suffer from bipolar disorder. With the average age of onset being 25, signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can affect people of any age. Research has shown that children and adolescents can develop bipolar disorder, though more research needs to be done, as this realization is relatively new to the study of bipolar disorder.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for bipolar disorder

Vulnerability to the development of bipolar disorder can be validated through a number of explanations. Similar to other mental health conditions, a specific cause is not known. However,  mental health professionals agree that the following are influential in understanding the reasons why people are diagnosed with bipolar disorder:

Genetic: A person’s genetic makeup is a heavily weighed consideration for understanding how a person develops bipolar disorder. Researchers have found that a child with a parent diagnosed with bipolar disorder has a 15%-25% greater chance of showing signs and symptoms in his or her own lifetime.  

Physical: Commonly seen in those with other mood disorders, individuals with bipolar disorder often have chemical imbalances in the brain. Chemicals responsible for regulating a person’s mood and emotions, when imbalanced, can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder.

Environmental: Bipolar disorder is known to be brought on by the use and abuse of drugs or alcohol. Especially in those with a genetic predisposition to the disorder, certain drugs can trigger drastic shifts in mood and result in a bipolar diagnosis. Additionally, environmental stressors, major life changes, experiencing trauma, and exposure to violence can possibly lead to bipolar symptoms. For those with a genetic predisposition or imbalanced brain chemistry, environment can trigger earlier onset or amplify symptoms.

Risk Factors:

  • Family history of bipolar disorder
  • Family history of other mental illness
  • History of trauma
  • Extremely stressful environment
  • Substance use or abuse

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

Depending on the type of bipolar disorder, the signs and symptoms present can vary. Additionally it is important to note that symptoms can manifest themselves differently in different people. Below are examples of common signs and symptoms associated with bipolar disorder:

Behavioral symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Self –injury
  • Missing school or work
  • Suicide attempts
  • Social isolation

Behavioral symptoms (manic episode):

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Rapid speech
  • Hypersexuality
  • Difficulty remaining focused on a single topic of conversation
  • Starting several tasks at one time, but failing to complete them
  • Acting in a grandiose manner

Physical symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Decreased energy
  • Weight gain
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Changes in sleeping patterns

Physical symptoms (manic episode):

  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Changes in body temperature

Cognitive symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Poor decision making
  • Lack of concentration
  • Slowed thinking
  • Presence of hallucinations

Cognitive symptoms (manic episode):

  • Inability to focus
  • Fleeting ideas
  • Lack of concentration
  • Racing thoughts

Psychosocial symptoms (depressive episode):

  • Suicidal ideations
  • Feelings of worry
  • Losing interest in pleasurable experiences
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Guilt

Psychosocial symptoms (manic episode):

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Overt enthusiasm
  • Feeling invincible
  • Feelings of grandiosity
  • Emotional excitability


Effects of bipolar disorder

For as many disruptions caused by the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, there can be just as many effects of the disorder. Without treatment for the Bipolar Disorder, the following effects can occur or even worsen over time:

  • Self-injury
  • Interaction with the legal system
  • Financial problems
  • Lack of employment
  • Academic failure
  • Substance abuse
  • Demise of interpersonal relationships
  • Suicide attempts or completion

Co-Occurring Disorders

Bipolar disorder and co-occurring disorders

Possibly due to the congruence of symptoms in other mental health disorders, there are a number of co-occurring disorders that can be diagnosed in addition to bipolar disorder. Some of these disorders are:

  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

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