Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue that affects 1 in 40 American adults. While the condition is somewhat common, it can be difficult to diagnose. Understanding bipolar symptoms are important in properly recognizing and treating this condition. Learn more about the symptoms and triggers of bipolar disorder.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. It causes significant shifts in mood and energy levels and can also impair one’s ability to think or function. Bipolar disorder is much more involved than simple mood changes. Someone with bipolar disorder has more extreme shifts in their emotions. This means that people with the disorder have periods of both elevated and depressed moods, usually switching between them over time.

Typically, these extreme mood swings can lead to sleep disturbances, restlessness, feelings of irritability, and low self-esteem.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Similar to different types of depression, there are different types of bipolar disorder. Understanding the differences between the types can help you receive a proper diagnosis and treatment more quickly.

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is a diagnosable mental health condition characterized mainly by manic episodes. To receive a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, you need to have had at least one manic episode. Typically, the manic episode is preceded or followed by a depressive episode. Sometimes, it may be preceded or followed by a hypomanic episode.

So, on one end of the bipolar spectrum, you have manic episodes that may involve intense highs, an elevated mood, and increased physical and mental energy. These can be accompanied by impulsivity, unrealistic beliefs, or even temporary psychosis, where someone may potentially lose touch with reality.

On the other end of the bipolar scale are depressive episodes with symptoms like a lack of emotion, overwhelming sadness or hopelessness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. However, for a bipolar I diagnosis, your symptoms are mainly characterized by a manic episode.

Bipolar II Disorder

Those with bipolar II disorder don’t experience manic episodes. Instead, they must have had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. Those with bipolar II disorder are sometimes more likely to experience more extended periods of depression. While the condition might not feel like as much of a roller coaster ride of emotions as bipolar I disorder, it can feel equally as debilitating mentally and physically.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is sometimes referred to as cyclothymia. People diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder experience episodes of hypomanic symptoms. They range from periods of excessive happiness and enthusiasm to short bouts of depression. To be diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder as an adult, you must have experienced both hypomania and depression for at least two years. However, depressive episodes are usually somewhat less severe than major depression.

Bipolar Symptoms

Mania or hypomania and depression are the most common symptoms of any bipolar disorder. These symptoms are often accompanied by anxiety, psychosis, and general psychological distress.


Experiencing mania and hypomania can be thrilling and overwhelming. They present with a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Increase in energy levels
  • Elevated mood
  • Racing thoughts
  • Lack of need for sleep
  • An exaggerated sense of self-confidence
  • Distractability

These episodes may also result in reckless behavior, such as spending sprees or risky decisions. Though mania is more severe and intense than hypomania, both require treatment from mental health professionals.


When you suffer from a depressive episode as part of bipolar disorder, it can be devastating. You may experience depressive symptoms, including:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt

You may find it difficult to concentrate on tasks or interact with others. That can affect how you handle everyday activities like work, school, and social interactions. Often, people experiencing bipolar depressive episodes will struggle with sleeping patterns and not have the energy to do things that made them happy in the past.

Bipolar Disorder Triggers

Why do you feel good one day and horrible the next? It depends on what might trigger your bipolar disorder. Triggers for bipolar disorder can be seemingly innocuous, like a change in the season, or something more stressful, like a traumatic event. Everyone experiences bipolar differently. Some people might not notice specific triggers, while others find them incredibly difficult to cope with and navigate. There are certain general categories of bipolar disorder triggers, though, such as:

  • Stressors from work or relationships
  • Difficulties in getting enough sleep
  • Changes in your diet or environment

It’s good to remember these potential triggers to recognize better when they might affect you. This way, you can find ways to handle them before they become too overwhelming.

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be a complex condition to live with, but luckily there are lots of bipolar disorder treatment options available to help manage it. The most common treatments usually involve a combination of medication and psychotherapy, allowing patients to manage their symptoms better.

Medication typically consists of mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. These can often help reduce mania and depressive episodes. Several types of psychotherapy are available for those who don’t respond well to medications. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), and family-focused therapy (FFT).

Ultimately, the best way to treat bipolar disorder depends on the individual. Talking to a mental health professional will help ensure you get the care you need to live your best life.

Mental Health Programs in South Florida

Receiving a bipolar disorder diagnosis is the first step to finding help and learning how to manage your mental health. At Comprehensive Wellness Centers, we can help you understand bipolar symptoms and triggers. We offer a unique treatment philosophy and a family-first approach to healing and recovery. Learn more about our approach and admissions process.