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How to Recognize the Symptoms of Bipolar 1 Disorder

Understanding Bipolar 1 Symptoms

Bipolar 1 disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings. These include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Bipolar 1 symptoms usually involve at least one manic episode in a lifetime. This manic episode refers to a period of abnormally elevated or irritable mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.

Most people with bipolar 1 disorder also suffer from episodes of depression. In between episodes of mania and depression, many people can still live their normal lives. In most cases, the symptoms of bipolar disorder usually appear first in the early teens or 20s. Manic episodes are usually characterized by exceptional energy, restlessness, difficulty in concentrating, feelings of euphoria, risky behaviors and poor sleeping habits. In this article, we will take a close look at these bipolar 1 symptoms.

What Causes Bipolar 1 Disorder?

Just like many other medical conditions, bipolar disorder tends to be hereditary. Chances are higher that you will develop bipolar disorder if you have a parent or sibling suffering from it.

Researchers also believe that certain factors such as severe stress, drug or alcohol abuse, or severely upsetting experiences may trigger bipolar disorder. Such experiences may include sexual abuse or the death of a loved one.

Bipolar 1 vs Bipolar 2

All types of bipolar disorder are characterized by episodes of extreme mood. The highs are known as manic episodes, while the lows are referred to as depressive episodes. The major difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders is the level of severity of the manic episodes they cause.

Bipolar 1 disorder involves at least one, full manic episode, followed by depressive moods. People with bipolar 2 disorder experience depressive episodes but have not experienced a manic episode. People with both bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders will have major mood swings, which will affect their behavior and decision making.

Symptoms of Bipolar 1 Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder 1 may differ from one individual to another. While some people usually experience an episode that lasts for months or years, others may experience both manic and depressive moods at the same time or intermittently. The following include the symptoms to look out for as regards bipolar 1 disorder:


In a manic episode, you always feel elated, high in energy, and easily distracted. A manic episode can get so intense that it affects your daily activities, making it very difficult to concentrate.

If you are in the manic phase of bipolar disorder, you tend to make some very irrational decisions, such as spending money that you don’t have, or engaging in risky behaviors such as sexual activity even when in a serious relationship.

However, you cannot conclude that an episode is manic if it has resulted from outside influences such as alcohol, drugs, or another health condition.


A hypomanic episode is a period of mania which is less severe than a full-blown manic episode. In this state, your behavior tends to differ from your normal state in such an extreme way that is noticeable to people around you.

Just like in a manic episode, you also can't conclude that an episode is hypomanic if it has been influenced by outside factors like drugs or alcohol.


Depressive symptoms in someone with bipolar disorder may include extended periods of sadness and hopelessness. In this state, you tend to start losing interest in people and things that you once used to love.

Other symptoms include tiredness, irritability, changes in sleeping pattern, distraction, changes in eating habit and, most severely, suicidal thoughts.

When to See a Doctor

People with bipolar disorder may not realize that their moods and behavior are disrupting their lives and that of their loved ones. Because of this, they often do not get the appropriate medical attention and treatment they require.

If you have started having any of the above symptoms, then you should go see a doctor before your condition gets worse. Sometimes, a person with a bipolar disorder diagnosis may need emergency medical attention if they are having suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self-harm, or they have become a danger to themselves or others.

Once you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you should see your doctor often to evaluate how well any prescription medications are working. Your doctor may also recommend you talk regularly with a mental health professional.

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