eflections Counseling of Denton - "Compassionate, Unbiased Care"
Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar mania, hypomania, and depression are symptoms of bipolar disorder. The dramatic mood episodes of bipolar disorder do not follow a set pattern -- depression does not always follow mania. A person may experience the same mood state several times -- for weeks, months, even years at a time -- before suddenly having the opposite mood. Also, the severity of mood phases can differ from person to person.

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. Hypomania is a mood that many do not perceive as a problem. It actually may feel pretty good. You have a greater sense of well-being and productivity. However, for someone with bipolar disorder, hypomania can evolve into mania -- or can switch into serious depression.

The experience of these manic stages has been described this way:

Hypomania:At first when I'm high, it's tremendous ... ideas are fast ... like shooting stars you follow until brighter ones appear... All shyness disappears, the right words and gestures are suddenly there ... uninteresting people, things become intensely interesting. Sensuality is pervasive, the desire to seduce and be seduced is irresistible. Your marrow is infused with unbelievable feelings of ease, power, well-being, omnipotence, euphoria ... you can do anything ... but somewhere this changes.

Mania:The fast ideas start coming too fast and there are far too many ... overwhelming confusion replaces clarity ... you stop keeping up with it … memory goes. Infectious humor ceases to amuse. Your friends become frightened ... everything is now against the grain ... you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and trapped.

If you have three or more of the mania symptoms below most of the day -- nearly every day -- for one week or longer, you may be having a manic episode of bipolar disorder:
  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile
  • Restlessness, increased energy, and less need for sleep
  • Rapid talk, talkativeness
  • Distractibility
  • Racing thoughts
  • High sex drive
  • Tendency to make grand and unattainable plans
  • Tendency to show poor judgment, such as impulsively deciding to quit a job
  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity -- unrealistic beliefs in one's ability, intelligence, and powers; may be delusional
  • Increased reckless behaviors (such as lavish spending sprees, impulsive sexual indiscretions, abuse of alcohol or drugs, or ill-advised business decisions)

Bipolar Depression
The periods of depression can be equally intense. Sadness and anxiety affect every aspect of life -- thoughts, feelings, sleeping, eating, physical health, relationships, and ability to function at work. If depression is not treated, it only grows worse. There may seem to be no way out of this overwhelming mood.

These depressed feelings have been described this way:

Depression:I doubt completely my ability to do anything well. It seems as though my mind has slowed down and burned out to the point of being virtually useless... . [I am] haunt[ed] ... with the total, the desperate hopelessness of it all. Others say, "It's only temporary, it will pass, you will get over it," but, of course, they haven't any idea of how I feel, although they are certain they do. If I can't feel, move, think, or care, then what on earth is the point?

An episode of depression involves five or more of these symptoms most of the day -- nearly every day -- for two weeks or longer:

Symptoms of depression:
  • Feeling sad or blue
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low energy
  • Feeling physically or mentally sluggish or restless and agitated
  • Increased need for sleep or inability to sleep (insomnia)
  • Change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or attempting suicide

In addition, people experiencing a major depressive episode may also feel anxious, irritable, and tearful or have trouble making everyday types of decisions.

There are several types of bipolar disorder; all involve episodes of depression and mania to a degree. They include bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, mixed bipolar, and rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.

A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode in his or her life. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.

Bipolar II is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time. However, in bipolar II disorder, the "up" moods never reach full-on mania.

In rapid cycling, a person with bipolar disorder experiences four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. About 10% to 20% of people with bipolar disorder have rapid cycling.

In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. But with mixed bipolar disorder, a person experiences both mania and depression simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

Cyclothymia (cyclothymic disorder) is a relatively mild mood disorder. People with cyclothymic disorder have milder symptoms than in full-blown bipolar disorder.


Bipolar Support