What is bipolar disorder?iStock/milos-kreckovic
There are two commonly diagnosed types of bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by mood swings from emotional highs to lows. People with bipolar I have depression alternating with severely elevated mood, or mania. Bipolar II is much more common, and is marked by less severe manic symptoms, called hypomania. Since the characteristics of bipolar disorder exist along a spectrum ranging from non-existent to extreme, and because good or bad moods can be a result of temporary events or circumstances rather than a mental illness, diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be difficult. These signs will reveal if you’re going through a phase or revealing bipolar symptoms. (Plus, check out this Google test that can help diagnose mental illness.)
You’re downright depressediStock/Juanmonino
A bipolar person in a depressive state will have the same symptoms as someone who has only depression. “They have the same problems with energy, appetite, sleep, and focus as others who have ‘plain old depression,'” Don Malone, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio, tells Health. The period of mania, or elevated mood, that follows the depression is what differentiates a bipolar diagnosis. It’s important to discuss fluctuations in mood with your therapist because the treatment for depression will be different from bipolar disorder treatment. “Antidepressants can be downright dangerous in people with bipolar because they can send them into mania,” says Dr. Malone. Signs of depression include: feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time, withdrawal from family or friends, lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy, significant changes in appetite, lack of energy, slow speech, problems concentrating, and preoccupation with death.