Despite the many stereotypes surrounding mental illnesses such as depression and personality disorders, the reality is that many are very hard to spot and diagnose.
Bipolar disorder – also known as manic depression – is particularly difficult to pinpoint, especially as the disorder varies in severity and like most mental illnesses, there is no specific cause.
Currently around one in every 100 people are thought to have bipolar, but the real number could be much higher.
So if you’re friend or loved one has severe mood problems, they may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar. Here is what to look out for if you are concerned:
Extreme mood changes
A key characteristic of bipolar disorder is up and down episodes of mania and depression. These entail dramatic changes in how a person thinks and behaves which can last for weeks or even months.
While mania refers to a phase of high energy and optimism – as well as feelings of increased power and confidence – a depressive episode tends to be worse than mild forms of depression, and many people with bipolar will find it hard to get out of bed.
Failing to complete tasks
People with bipolar disorder tend to surround themselves with half-completed projects. During a manic phase they will have the energy and motivation to get tasks done, but as soon as a depressive phase occurs this enthusiasm disappears. Furthermore, people with bipolar can be easily distracted and struggle to focus on one thing at a time. They tend to start several things at once and never finish them.
Some people with bipolar may have ‘mixed mania’ where they experience symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously. During such an episode, they will be very irritable and moody. Although everyone feels irritable from time to time, people with bipolar will have it so severe that it interferes with their relationships.
‘Pressured speech’ – when someone talks over you at a rapid pace – is a common symptom of bipolar. People with the condition are also likely to switch topics quickly.
During a manic phase, people with bipolar can act completely out of character. They will have an inflated self-esteem and feel a grandiose that leads them to be impulsive and reckless without considering the consequences.