Early symptoms of bipolar disorder

bipolar symptAnybody can experience this illness, but the early symptoms of bipolar disorder can appear during childhood and adolescence, in which case it is known as early-onset bipolar disorder – though the majority of people who develop this condition do so in their late teens or in early adulthood. Moreover, age influences the severity and frequency of the symptoms. In very broad strokes, this disorder is characterized by mood swings that have the patient switching from intense highs (manic or hypomanic episodes) to deep lows (depressive episodes), which is why the condition is also known as manic-depressive illness.


Bipolar disorder symptoms




Manic or hypomanic episode

  • An exceedingly long period of excessive joy or happiness.
  • Severe irritability.
  • Talking too much or too fast.
  • Jumping from one idea to the next.
  • Racing thoughts.
  • Being unusually distracted.
  • Increasing goal-oriented activity.
  • Undertaking several projects at the same time.
  • Overt restlessness.
  • Sleeping little without being tired.
  • Impulsive behavior.
  • Indulging in high-risk, pleasurable practices.
  • Grandiose delusions.

Depressive episode

  • An exceedingly long period of excessive sadness or hopelessness.
  • Losing interest in once-joyful activities, such as sex.
  • Depressed mood for most of the day almost every day.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Concentration, memory, and decision-making problems.
  • Restlessness or noticeably slowed behavior.
  • Irritability.
  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little.
  • Appetite or weight gain or loss.
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Suicide attempts.


Symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and teens



  • Feeling very happy or acting unusually silly.
  • Short temper.
  • Talking too fast about many different subjects.
  • Problems sleeping but without feeling tired.
  • Trouble focusing.
  • Thinking and talking about sex more often.
  • Risky behavior.
  • Feeling very sad.
  • Complaining about headaches and stomachaches.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Feeling guilty or worthless.
  • Eating too much or not enough.
  • Loss of energy.
  • No interest in enjoyable activities.
  • Thinking about suicide or death.


Additional symptoms include:

  • Anxious distress.
  • Mixed manic/depressive features.
  • Melancholic features.
  • Atypical  features.
  • Catatonia.
  • Peripartum onset.
  • Seasonal pattern.
  • Rapid cycling.
  • Psychosis.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar I

At least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. The symptoms significantly disrupt the patient’s life and may require a hospital stay or trigger psychosis. Manic or mixed episodes last at least one week, while depressive episodes usually last at least two weeks.

Bipolar II

At least one depressive episode that lasts a minimum of two weeks, and at least one hypomanic episode that lasts a minimum of 4 days, but no manic episodes. Mood and behavior changes cause distress and difficulty in the patient’s life.

Not Otherwise Specified

Symptoms are present and mark a distinct change in the patient’s normal behavior  but do not meet the criteria for I or II.


At least two years (one year for children and teens) of multiple periods of hypomania symptoms, during which the symptoms take place at least 50% of the time and do not recede for more than two months, resulting in considerable distress.


Bipolar and related disorders caused by other conditions, for example Cushing’s disease, MS, or stroke.

Manic, hypomanic, and depressive episodes


A definite period of unusually elevated, expansive, or irritable mood lasting at least one week. The mood disturbance must be serious enough to cause distinct problems at work, school, or in social interactions; require hospitalization to prevent self-harm; or trigger psychosis. The symptoms are not caused by alcohol, drugs, medications, or another condition.

Three of the aforementioned manic symptoms (four if the mood is irritable only) must occur and pose a clear change from usual behavior for both mania and hypomania.


A definite period of unusually elevated, expansive, or irritable mood lasting at least four days in a row. The episode must be a noticeably uncharacteristic change in mood and functioning, but not serious enough to cause major problems at work, school, or in social interactions, require hospitalization, or trigger psychosis. The symptoms are not caused by alcohol, drugs, medications, or another condition.


Five or more of the aforementioned depressive symptoms – based on the patient’s own feelings or someone else’s observations –, at least one of which is depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure,  must be present over a period of two weeks, representing a change from prior mood and functioning.

Major depressive

The symptoms must be sufficiently serious to cause observable problems in daily activities like work, school, and social interactions, but are not caused by alcohol, drugs, medications, or another condition, or by grief, for instance after losing a loved one.


--mihi ipsi scripsi--

Related Read:

- How to Treat Bipolar Disorders Without Medication