How Can You Tell If Someone Is Bipolar?

Reviewed on 5/5/2022

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

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It is not always possible to tell if someone has bipolar disorder. A person with bipolar disorder may sometimes act excessively elated, impulsive, irritable, or irrational (mania), hypomanic (a milder form of mania), or excessively sad (major depression).

Bipolar disorder (previously called manic depression) is a mental health condition that causes extreme changes in mood, energy, and concentration. 

It may not always be possible to tell if someone is bipolar but the disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings, ranging from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression).

A person with bipolar disorder may sometimes act excessively elated, impulsive, irritable, or irrational (mania), hypomanic (a milder form of mania), or excessively sad (major depression).

What Are Bipolar Disorder Symptoms?

Symptoms of bipolar disorder include: 

  • Mania
    • Abnormal and persistent happiness, anger, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and irrationality at different times
    • Moods can change quickly from euphoria to depression 
    • Feelings last at least a week, and may be so severe it requires hospitalization
    • Symptoms can interfere with work and other responsibilities, and can make it difficult to maintain relationships
    • Other symptoms of mania may include:
      • Feeling one is important, has special powers, and is superior to others
      • Feel high or elated 
      • Feeling as if they can do a lot at once
      • Excessive talking/talking very fast
      • Racing thoughts
      • Increased activity
      • Decreased need for sleep
      • Restlessness
      • Short attention span
      • Loss of appetite 
      • Inappropriate laughing or joking
      • Provoking arguments
      • Eating or drinking excessively
      • Going on spending sprees 
      • Inappropriate sexual activity
  • Depression
    • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, worry
    • Difficulty performing daily tasks including bathing, dressing, and meal preparation
    • Feeling sad most of the day or little or no interest in activities they used to enjoy
    • Other symptoms of depression may include:
      • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
      • Inability to experience pleasure (anhedonia)
      • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
      • Inability to accomplish simple tasks
      • Easily irritated 
      • Fatigue
      • Forgetfulness
      • Weight changes
      • Sleep problems
      • Speaking slowly
      • Loss of energy
      • Low or absent sex drive
      • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (tell your doctor if this occurs)
        • The risk of suicide is higher in people with bipolar disorder than in people with other psychiatric disorders, including depression
        • If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential. Or you may visit

Alcohol and drug abuse are also common among people with bipolar disorder. 

How Is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

  • There is no single test to diagnose bipolar disorder. A diagnosis is based on a person’s symptoms, a medical and psychiatric history, and a physical and mental status examination. A family history may be considered. 
  • Depending on the symptoms that are present, tests may be performed to rule out underlying medical conditions.

What Is the Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder treatment varies depending on whether mania or depression is being treated. 

Treatment of mania in bipolar disorder includes:

Treatment of depression in bipolar disorder includes:

Maintenance therapy for bipolar disorder includes:

  • Use of medications as discussed above
  • Psychotherapy (counseling) 
  • Lifestyle changes
    • Regular exercise
    • Planning activities to enjoy that give a sense of achievement
    • Eating a healthy diet
    • Getting adequate sleep
Reviewed on 5/5/2022
Image Source: iStock Images