Bipolar Disorder Signs, Symptoms and Effects


Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of bipolar disorder is an important step toward getting help for yourself or your loved one. Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a source of accurate information, reliable guidance, and comprehensive solutions for adults and older adults who have been struggling with bipolar disorder.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Learn about bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is an illness that is characterized by drastic changes in a person’s mood, energy levels, self-confidence, and similar symptoms.

There are several types of bipolar disorder. Depending upon which type a person has, they may experience major depressive episodes, manic episodes, hypomanic episodes, or similar symptoms.

  • Major depressive episodes are periods of extreme sadness, low energy, and diminished confidence.
  • Manic episodes are times when a person experiences increased energy, improved mood, and heightened self-esteem.
  • Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic episodes, but symptoms are less intense and do not last as long.

The various forms of bipolar disorder are differentiated by which episodes or symptoms a person has. The three most common forms of bipolar disorder are bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder:

  • A person who has bipolar I disorder will experience manic episodes that last for at least seven days. These manic episodes may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. However, it is not necessary for a person to experience hypomanic or major depressive episodes in order to be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder.
  • A person who has bipolar II disorder will have depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not manic episodes. To be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, a person must experience one or more episodes of major depression, along with at least one hypomanic episode.
  • A person who has cyclothymic disorder will have symptoms of hypomania and symptoms of depression. However, these symptoms will not meet the criteria for a hypomanic episode or a major depressive episode. To be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, a person must experience hypomanic and depressive symptoms multiple times over a period of at least two years.

If you believe that you or someone you care about has been struggling with the signs, symptoms, and effects of bipolar disorder, please seek professional assistance. Only a trained clinician can assess your symptoms and accurately diagnose which type of bipolar disorder you have.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder

A person who has bipolar disorder can struggle with a variety of signs and symptoms. The specific signs and symptoms that a person develops can be influenced by a host of individual factors, including their life experiences, which type of bipolar disorder they have, and whether they also have a co-occurring disorder.

Taking these many differentiators into consideration, the following are among the most common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Symptoms of manic or hypomanic episodes:

  • Improved mood
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Extremely rapid speech
  • Elevated energy level
  • Being jumpy, jittery, or restless
  • Little to no need for sleep
  • Problems remaining focused due to what feel like racing thoughts
  • Impulsive or reckless behaviors

Symptoms of depressive episodes:

  • Overwhelming sadness
  • Diminished self-worth
  • Low self-esteem
  • Memory problems
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Pervasive sense of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal ideation

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of bipolar disorder

If you need, but fail to seek, effective care for bipolar disorder, you put yourself at risk for a wide range of short- and long-term effects. The possible short-term effects of bipolar disorder include the following:

  • Substance abuse
  • Strained relationships with friends and family members
  • Frequently missing work or school
  • Substandard performance at work or in school
  • Failing to meet personal responsibilities
  • Physical injuries due to reckless or impulsive behaviors
  • Onset of co-occurring disorders
  • Poor eating habits and otherwise diminished self-care
  • Legal problems due to reckless or impulsive behaviors
  • Social withdrawal
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of suicide

Describing the possible outcomes above as short-term effects does not imply that they are temporary or superficial. The short-term effects of bipolar disorder can cause significant distress and should always be taken seriously. If you or someone you care about has been experiencing the short-term effects of bipolar disorder, seek appropriate help immediately.

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of bipolar disorder

The longer you continue to deal with the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, the greater your risk becomes for experiencing long-term effects. The following are among the many potential long-term effects of bipolar disorder:

  • Ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Social isolation
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss
  • Chronic unemployment
  • Financial problems
  • Addiction
  • Worsening signs and symptoms of co-occurring disorders
  • Serious health problems due to poor self-care
  • Pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal behaviors

The onset, severity, and impact of both the short- and long-term effects of bipolar disorder can vary considerably from person to person. However, all these effects can cause great harm. Anyone who has been impacted by either the short- or long-term effects of bipolar disorder needs professional care.

With the right type and level of help, a person whose life has been disrupted by either the short- or long-term effects of bipolar disorder can achieve improved quality of life.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have bipolar disorder

If you have bipolar disorder, you may be at increased risk for several additional disorders. Clinicians use the term “co-occurring disorders” to describe multiple challenges that occur at the same time. The following are among the more common co-occurring disorders that can accompany the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorders (this is the clinical term for addiction)
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)

In some cases, the co-occurring disorders listed above develop before a person first experiences the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. In other cases, a person begins to deal with bipolar disorder first, then starts to display signs and symptoms of the co-occurring disorder. In still other cases, people who have bipolar disorder never deal with co-occurring disorders at all.

The possible presence of co-occurring disorders is one of the many reasons why you should get proper help for bipolar disorder from a provider who can offer a thorough assessment and comprehensive care. With this type of help, you’ll be best prepared to make sustained progress and achieve improved health.


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