Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes individuals to experience extreme shifts in not only mood but also cognitive processes and behaviors. This condition can be difficult to accurately diagnose, and many years can go by before a person is correctly diagnosed and treated. One explanation of why it is so difficult to diagnose is because the symptoms can easily be confused with those of other illnesses, such as severe depression or schizophrenia.

Down into the Depths of Depression

It is hard to find a human being who is upbeat all the time. Most of us can feel melancholy or joyless due to difficulties, disappointments in life, or depression. In many cases, the feelings of despondency a person with bipolar disorder experiences can reach extreme highs and lows. Many find themselves drained of energy with no motivation and spend a great deal of time sleeping and feeling irritable. Others may feel extraordinarily happy and ready to take on the world.



On Top of the World

While the popular image of bipolar disorder is a deep depression, the condition also leads people to the opposite extreme. Feelings of pure ecstasy and intense vibrancy are a recurring trait in people with this disorder. They might constantly talk, appear to overflow with confidence, or involve themselves in dangerous activities without considering the consequences, such as reckless driving or multiple sex partners. Ideas come to them in quick succession, but this upbeat mood can quickly, and without warning, turn into a deep depression.

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Unrealistic Beliefs

Bipolar disorder can cause a person to lose their grasp on reality. They might hear or see things that aren't there or imagine scenarios no one else experiences. These ideas could last for extended periods of time or quickly pass.

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Substance Abuse

People with bipolar disorder are prone to substance abuse issues. Alcohol and drugs can seem to offer a quick fix or relieve symptoms, and different substances can be appealing, depending on the type of an episode the person is having. As is the case with any addiction, dependence only serves to complicate the situation by exacerbating existing symptoms and introducing new problems.

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Suicidal Thoughts

It is easy to understand how someone in the depths of bipolar-induced depression could become suicidal. If depressive symptoms reach this stage, a doctor or mental health specialist should be notified. Sometimes, changes to medications or other treatment avenues help alleviate these feelings, as does continued support from family and friends.

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Surges of Creativity

Upsurges in creativity could be seen as a positive aspect of bipolar disorder, as long as compulsive tendencies don't lead to endangerment. People might experience enhanced clarity of thought and expression and find fulfilling outlets in creative fields, such as art and literature. If a person can successfully channel their energy, it can serve as an additional form of treatment.

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Varied Mood Swing Patterns

Bipolar disorder can present in all kinds of patterns. Some people experience dramatic high to low mood swings without moments of stability in between, while others have months without any troublesome episodes. The severity of symptoms is very much an individual matter, though people with less severe mood swings may be diagnosed with a condition called cyclothymia, which also has irregular, though milder, ups and downs.

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Unawareness of Episodes

Individuals with bipolar disorder may not even be aware of their mood and behavioral shifts, which is yet another reason that a correct diagnosis is of the utmost importance. For example, mania can lead to a form of hysteria that creates a feeling of being invincible, which can be dangerous if your judgment is already cloudy.

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Though more common in personality disorders, some people with bipolar disorder may act eccentrically when experiencing manic episodes. This might include dressing or acting in surprising or socially unacceptable ways.

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Associated Illnesses

Doctors have discovered bipolar disorder often occurs in conjunction with other health issues, such as PTSD and heart disease. This means a definitive diagnosis can be even more difficult to make. If symptoms overlap, a medical professional might focus on the more obvious health condition and overlook the bipolar disorder. In time, increased mental health awareness and the emerging fight against long-held stigmas should reduce the number of misdiagnoses.

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