Bipolar 1 Disorder Diagnosis

Bipolar ExtremesI knew that I was moody, but a few years back, I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder also known as manic-depressive disorder. A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one severe manic episode in his or her life. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by abnormal or out-of-character behavior that disrupts life. I have “euphoric manic moods” that typically last several months. My most disruptive manic episode lasted for several months. As far back as I can remember, in retrospect, I’ve  had hypomanic episodes.

Some prominent experts insist that bipolar disorder is found in a disproportionate number of people with creative talent such as actors, artists, comedians, musicians, authors, performers, and poets. Several recent clinical studies have also suggested that there is a positive correlation between creativity and bipolar disorder. A 2005 study at the Stanford University School of Medicine showed for the first time that a sample of children who either have or are at high risk for bipolar disorder scored higher on a creativity index. Children with bipolar parents who were not bipolar themselves also scored higher. That’s some bit of comfort I suppose.

Most people but not all people with bipolar I disorder also suffer from episodes of depression. Often, there is a pattern of cycling between mania and depression. In between episodes of mania and depression, many people with bipolar I disorder live relatively normal lives. My experience seems to run from mixed anxious episodes to manic episodes with periods of being somewhat down occasionally. There are fleeting moments of calm and stability but it never seems to last very long.

During a manic episode, elevated mood can manifest itself as euphoria “feeling high” and having tons of energy, or it can manifest itself as irritability. It often includes both feelings at the same time. Behavior during manic episodes can include but does not necessarily have to include all of the following:

  • Flying suddenly from one idea to the next (easily distracted)
  • Pursuing unrealistic plans
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Increased energy, with hyperactivity and decreased need for sleep
  • Inflated self-image
  • Excessive spending
  • Rapid or pressured speech
  • Behaving in ways that are out of character
  • Hypersexuality
  • Engaging in high-risk behaviors (unprotected sex, etc.)
  • Being overly focused on one project, goal, or activity (almost obsessive compulsive)
  • Having to get out of situations or commitments that you created when manic

When manic, people may spend money far beyond their means, have sex with people they wouldn’t otherwise, or pursue grandiose, unrealistic plans. Untreated, an episode of mania can last anywhere from a few days to several years. Most commonly, symptoms continue for a few weeks to a few months. Depression may follow shortly after but doesn’t always. A period of exhaustion and confusion and disbelief in my choices is the follow up to my out of control manic episodes. Many people with bipolar I disorder experience long periods without symptoms in between episodes. A minority have rapid-cycling symptoms of mania and depression — even alternating between mania and depression in the same day.

Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder are similar to “regular” clinical depression, with depressed mood, loss of pleasure, low energy and activity, feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder can last weeks or even years. I usually stick with mania but occasionally hit a down mood. But it doesn’t last long and then I’m riding the wild crest of the wave again. Now, on Lithium, I stay somewhere in limbo but it’s better than being manic and making devastasting and destructive choices.

What is the difference between bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder? Bipolar I disorder encompasses the behaviors described in the list above. These manic symptoms can lead to serious disruptions in life – for example, spending sprees, having extramarital affairs, and engaging in other high-risk behaviors. The symptoms of elevated mood in bipolar II disorder never reach full-on mania. They often appear as extreme cheerfulness, even making someone a lot of fun to be around. This less-severe mania is called hypomania. People experiencing hypomania are often extremely creative and productive. I completed my entire Ph.D. program while hypomanic. This less-severe mania is not so bad, you might think– except that bipolar II also features episodes of significant depression.

Managing and learning to live with bipolar disorder is a challenge. The highs are extremely seductive and the creativity that comes with hypomania is exhilarating; however, the disruption and chaos that follows is exhausting. I wish I’d been diagnosed at a younger age. I sometimes grieve for the loss of all the opportunities that I was unable to grasp because of the illness. If you suspect that you or your loved one may have bipolar disorder don’t hesitate to seek out appropriate medical care.


6 Responses to “Bipolar 1 Disorder Diagnosis”

  1. Laurie says:

    my 21 year old daughter just had a psychotic break that lasted for a month. She is on Lithium and seroquel. Dr. is trying to determine if this is the beginning of bipolar Dx, or if the psychotic break was an isolated incident. Any advice? She is acting completely normal on the medication.

  2. Luann says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. I’d rely on your doctor to confirm or deny the diagnosis. It may take time to be sure. Since she is doing well on the medication, I suspect that it might be in that spectrum; however, it might have been due to something else and may never reoccur. I hope that she is fine from here on in.

  3. Cira says:


    This website has been very helpful so far. My daughter just had her first manic episode with psychosis at the age of 24. She is in an acute unit right now trying to regulate her. She has been refusing to take the medication what is the best approach to persuade someone on a manic and delusional state to take their medication? Any feedback would be helpful.

  4. Lucille says:

    My husband of forty years perfectly happy sun denly when manic had a affair for fifteen months with a much younger girl. He also twice told me he was leaving me his marriage his home everything. then he was hospitalized against his wishes for fourteen days and put on antychicotics and mood stablelizer. By second week on meds he was saying what was I doing I love you. Now he is embarrassed. As for me I’m saying what the heck happened to you. He is a 69 year old man chasing young women was never something he did in the forty years we were married. His diagnoses was bipolar one with scitzoprenic tendencies he was also hearing voices. Is this a normal symtoms of bipolar one dissorder.

    • Rwinter says:

      This is exactly my experience. Out of the blue I found a letter to a 21yr old barmaid from my 69 year old husband. We have been married 49 years and I have all this time never doubted my trust in him. She was his perfect fantasy which he expressed in the letter along with how very very happy she made him ,like a cocaine hit was how later he explained it to me! Also the contents of a CD of love songs of how he felt for her with the theme that she would be his for eternity. At this time we did not realise he was manic and some months later he went into a depression with suicidal thoughts and was diagnosed bipolar. The letter was in response to the young lady refusing to have anything to do with him having realising his behaviour was inappropriate. I still query was the fixation on the lady really caused by bipolar it is so difficult to come to terms with. I have been reading blogs and articles to try to come to so me understanding as really struggling but your blog has really helped I wonder if you will read this and how you have co e to terms so late in life.

  5. Pradeep Kumar Singh says:

    My younger brother recently diagnosed as suffering from Mania a mental disorder.He take medicine for first 20 days and healing very well but after that he stopped medicine but become very aggressive.Again medicine is started 2 days earlier but still have aggressive nature. Is there anyone who can help me?


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