Bipolar Disorder - Symptoms

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What are bipolar disorder symptoms and signs in adults, teenagers, and children?

In order to qualify for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a person must experience at least one manic episode. Characteristics of manic episodes must last at least a week (unless it is a mixed episode) and include

  • elevated, expansive, or irritable mood;
  • racing thoughts;
  • pressured speech (rapid, excessive speech);
  • decreased need for sleep;
  • grandiose beliefs (for example, feeling like one has super powers or superlative talents or faults);
  • tangential speech (repeatedly changing conversational topics to topics that are hardly related);
  • increased goal directed activity;
  • impulsivity and poor judgment.

Symptoms of the manic episode of early onset bipolar disorder tend to include outbursts of anger and rage, as well as irritability, as opposed to the expansive, excessively elevated mood seen in adults. The adolescent with bipolar disorder is more likely to exhibit depression and mixed episodes, with rapid changes in mood. Despite differences in the symptoms of bipolar disorder in teens and children compared to adults, many who are diagnosed with certain kinds of bipolar disorder before adulthood continue to have those symptoms as adults. Symptoms of bipolar disorder in women tend to include more depression and anxiety and a rapid cycling pattern compared to symptoms in men.

Although a major depressive episode is not required for the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, such episodes often alternate with manic episodes. In fact, depression occurs more often than mania in many people with bipolar disorder. Characteristics of depressive episodes include a number of the following symptoms: persistently depressed or irritable mood; decreased interest in previously pleasurable activities; change or problems in appetite, weight, or sleep; agitation or lack of activity; fatigue; feelings of worthlessness; trouble concentrating; thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts, plans or actions.

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Comment from: Are, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: December 07

I have been diagnosed with bipolar since i was 11 I have tried several times to kill myself. In and out of hospitals. The thing that I struggle with is there are no doctors and I'm not sure if I'm even taking the right medication and I always have a hard time getting my meds because of the lack of doctors here get angry when people say it's all in your head get over it. It is an unbalance in your brain at least that's my understanding. I have been in counseling, treatment. I have done everything that I can think of and look at me today still the same just learning to cope with it.

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Comment from: chistletoe, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: May 25

No doctor, therapist, hospital, or medication ever helped me at all, although I suffered their treatments for over 40 years and spent several hundred thousand dollars on them. The stigma is more harmful than the illness. The medicines have left my body permanently damaged, but fortunately not too severely. Many years ago I decided to take charge of my own life, to take responsibility for my own actions and feelings, no matter what they might be. No one around me now would ever suspect that I had ever been regarded as "crazy".

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