Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by extreme mood swings and can be dangerous. A person suffering from this disorder will experience episodes of abnormally elevated moods, clinically referred to as mania. They are also likely to experience depressive episodes. These episodes may take place separately or together, in a mixed episode where both emotions are experienced together. The condition is also known as manic depression or manic depressive disorder. Very often, it is observed to develop during the late teens or early adult years, with about half of all cases occurring before the age of 25.
Bipolar disorder is a difficult condition to identify, especially in the initial stages. Often, the symptoms are considered as regular mood problems, and the person fails to see that they are in fact, small parts of a bigger problem. An unfortunate truth is that some people go undiagnosed for years, suffering all the while. However, there is no physical test, such as a blood or saliva test, at present, to indicate that the condition exists.
If you suspect that you may suffer from this condition, these are a few steps you can take to help confirm your suspicions:
- Keep a record of how often you don't feel like yourself and have to excuse your behavior in front of others. Be honest with yourself, and make a note of both, highs and lows.
- Track your sleep patterns. On a daily basis, write down how many hours you slept the previous night; and make special notes about periods of insomnia, as well as times when you have felt that you couldn't get out of bed and needed more sleep.
- Whenever you experience a period of highs and lows in your sleep patterns, also make note of your energy levels during those times. After a while, you may find certain sleep patterns correlating with mood changes. For example, too much sleep may be followed by periods of feelings of loneliness, depression, indifference, or even suicidal tendencies.
- Record the times when you have indulged in irresponsible or risky actions that put you in danger. While in a manic phase, a person may display out-of-character behavior, such as spending or gambling away a lot of money, driving fast and recklessly, or having promiscuous sex.
There are many self-test questionnaires on the Internet, which can help you assess your condition. The most common format allows you to answer a series of multiple choice questions, and then gives you an answer based on your score. For most tests, the higher the score, the more likely you are to have a disorder in the bipolar spectrum. Some examples of the kinds of questions included in the self test are:
- Sometimes I speak very rapidly or turn much more talkative than usual.
- I have experienced instances where I feel both high (elated) and low (depressed) at the same time.
- There have been times when I was very active or did much more than usual.
- There are times when there is a marked difference in the quantity or quality of my work.
- Sometimes I am extremely optimistic, and at other times, I am equally pessimistic.
Disclaimer: This PsycholoGenie article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.