The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and Normal Ups and Downs

The Difference Between Bipolar Disorder and Normal Ups and Downs

Those suffering from bipolar disorder will have a history of strained personal and professional interactions as a result of their inability to manage their emotions effectively.

Many equate bipolar disorder with emotionality, but it is much more than just being moody. Learning to ask a few key questions can help differentiate the two states. Before moving to the questions, it is helpful to understand what bipolar disorder actually is.

What Does Bipolar Disorder Look Like?

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) classifies Bipolar Disorder by the occurrence of one or more manic or mixed episode (also known as agitated depression) often accompanied by depressive episodes. While we are generally familiar with the characteristics of a depressive episode, manic is less familiar. A manic episode includes three or more of the following:

  • Increased self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative than usual
  • Flight of ideas
  • Distractible
  • Increase in goal-directed activity
  • Excessive involvement in high-pleasure/high-risk activities

Questions to Differentiate Between Emotionality and Bipolar Disorder

If this description still leaves an individual uncertain whether a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is appropriate, considering these three questions may provide more clarity:

  1. Is the mood attached to an event? A mood swing may be the result of an unexpected negative or positive event. An individual losing a job or getting engaged would experience mood swings, and it would be considered typical.
  2. Is the mood a reasonable reaction to an event? An overreaction to a simple event could be an indicator of bipolar. For example, if an individual starts screaming at a fast food worker due to a three-minute delay on french fries, this would be considered an overreaction and cause for concern.
  3. Does the mood significantly and negatively impact personal and professional relationships? Dramatic and unexplained mood swings cause uncertainty and invariably lead to strained relationships. Those suffering from bipolar disorder will have a history of strained personal and professional interactions as a result of their inability to manage their emotions effectively.

If you find yourself wondering if you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, it can feel overwhelming. Some days, even the best coping mechanisms do not stop the inconsistent emotions. You can feel as though your family story will never be one that is stable. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about mental disorders. They can help you find your way.