Understanding Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms

The primary symptoms of bipolar disorder are periods of elevated or irritable mood accompanied by dramatic increases in energy, activity, and fast thinking. The illness has two (bi) strongly contrasting phases (polar): 1) bipolar mania or hypo-mania and 2) depression.

1) Bipolar mania or hypo-mania symptoms include:

  • Euphoria or irritability
  • Increased energy and activity
  • Excessive talk; racing thoughts
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Unusual energy; less need for sleep
  • Impulsiveness, a reckless pursuit of gratification (shopping sprees, impetuous travel, more and sometimes promiscuous sex, high-risk business investments, fast driving)

2) Bipolar depression/major depression symptoms include:

  • Depressed mood and low self-esteem
  • Low energy levels and apathy
  • Sadness, loneliness, helplessness, guilt
  • Slow speech, fatigue, and poor coordination
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 11, 2017



American Psychiatry Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Kupfer, J. (editor). Bipolar Depression The Clinician's Reference Guide., Current Psychiatry, 2004. 

Geddes, JR. Long Term Lithium Therapy for Bipolar Disorder, American Journal of Psychiatry, 2004. 

McElroy SL. A 52 Week Continuation Study of Lamotrigine In the Treatment of Bipolar Depression, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry; 2004.

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