The symptoms of bipolar disorder are very specific. Contrary to popular belief, frequent fluctuations in mood do not indicate bipolar disorder. Instead, diagnosis requires patients to experience discrete and sustained periods of emotional highs and lows.
Patients with bipolar disorder experience extreme highs known as mania. Lasting at least a week, these episodes feature abundant energy and decreased need for sleep, with mood characterized by euphoria or irritability. Often, patients are impulsive during manic episodes, which can be highly disruptive.
Lows of depression are also a feature of bipolar disorder. Symptoms are similar to those of major depressive disorder, including sustained sadness and pessimism.
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, but a broad set of treatment options are available with proven effectiveness. Given the disruptiveness of extreme mood states, it is important for patients with bipolar disorder to seek regular psychiatric care.