Bipolar disorder causes mood swings. A person with it may feel very high or low and without hope. Often, there are times of steady moods in between these highs and lows. There may also be a change in energy and actions. The highs are called manic episodes. The lows are called depressive episodes.

Depressive Episode

Low moods may cause:

  • Lasting sad, worried, or empty mood
  • Negativity or lack of hope
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Not wanting to do things that were once enjoyed
  • Low energy
  • Problems with focus, recall, or making choices
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
  • Changes in hunger and weight loss or gain
  • Pain or other health symptoms that do not have a cause
  • Thoughts of death or self-harm, or trying to kill oneself

Manic Episode

High moods may cause:

  • Raised energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Very high, overly good mood
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking quickly, jumping from one point to the next
  • Lack of focus
  • Little need for sleep
  • Odd beliefs in one's abilities and powers
  • Problems making choices
  • Spending sprees
  • Changes in behavior
  • A higher sex drive
  • Drug abuse , such as cocaine , alcohol , and sleeping pills
  • Aggressive actions
  • Denying that something is wrong

A mild to medium level of mania is called hypomania. It may feel good to the person who has it. A person be able to get more things done. It can become mania or can switch to depression if it is not treated.

Other Symptoms

A person may also have:


Sometimes, mania or depression turns into symptoms of psychosis, such as:

  • Hallucinations—hearing, seeing, or feeling that things are there that are not
  • Delusions—false, strongly held thoughts that are not based in reality
  • Disorders of thought—loose links between topics, flight of topics, or speech that others can't make sense of
Suicidal Symptoms

Some people are in danger of self-harm. A person who is thinking or talking about self-harm needs help right away.

Signs may be:

  • Talking about feeling like killing oneself or wanting to die
  • Feeling hopeless, that nothing will ever change or get better
  • Feeling helpless, that nothing one does makes any change
  • Feeling like a weight to family and friends
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Putting affairs in order (organizing finances or giving away items to get ready for one's death)
  • Writing a suicide note
  • Putting oneself in harm's way or places where there is a danger of dying

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2019 -