When it comes to mental illness, there are plenty of stereotypes. But in reality, mood disorders can be hard to pinpoint-particularly in people with bipolar disorder symptoms.
“Chalking it up to moodiness or trouble at work or tiredness is pretty common,” says Carrie Bearden, PhD, an associate professor in residence of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and psychology at the David Geffen School of Medical at UCLA.
Here are 8 signs that your mood problems may be more than just a personality quirk:
Bipolar disorder is characterized by up-and-down episodes of mania and depression. During a manic phase, some patients can have a total break from reality. Hypomania, which is also a symptom of the disorder, is a high-energy state in which a person feels exuberant but hasn’t lost his or her grip on reality.
Inability to complete tasks
Having a house full of half-completed projects is a hallmark of bipolar disorder. People who can harness their energy when they are in a hypomanic phase can be really productive. Some often go from task to task, planning grand, unrealistic projects that are never finished before moving on to something else.
A person who is in a bipolar depressive state is going to look just like someone who has depression. They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have depression.
Unfortunately, typical antidepressants alone don’t work well in patients who are bipolar. They can even make people cycle more frequently, worsening their condition.
Some people with this condition suffer from “mixed mania,” where they experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. During this state, they are often extremely irritable. Moodiness often becomes so severe that it interferes with their relationships and they can’t control it.
Some people are naturally talkative; we all know a “motor mouth” or “Chatty Cathy”. But “pressured speech” is one of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The person will talk rapidly and if you try to speak, they will likely just talk over you. They will also sometimes jump around from topic to topic.
Trouble at work
People with this disorder often have difficulty in the workplace because so many of their symptoms can interfere with their ability to show up for work, do their job, and interact productively with others.
Alcohol or drug abuse
About 50% of people with bipolar disorder also have a substance abuse problem, particularly alcohol abuse, Dr. Bearden says. Many people will drink when they are in a manic phase to slow themselves down, and use alcohol to improve their mood when they are depressed.
When they are in a manic phase, people with bipolar disorder can have an inflated self-esteem.
Two of the most common types of behavior that can result from this are spending sprees and unusual sexual behavior. During this episode they exhibited behavior that is not consistent with what they would do normally.