What is Bipolar?

Bipolar Disorder can present in a variety of ways with each individual. Everybody is different, however, the following are just a few characteristics that underpin the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) defines mania as a “distinct period during which there is an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood.”
Note: The episode must last at least a week. The mood must have at least three of the following symptoms:

  • high self-esteem
  • little need for sleep
  • increased rate of speech (talking fast)
  • flight of ideas
  • easily distracted
  • an increased interest in goals or activities
  • Psychomotor agitation (pacing, hand wringing, etc.)
  • increased pursuit of activities with a high risk of danger

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) states that a major depressive episode must have at least four of the following symptoms.
Note: They should be new or suddenly worse. They must last for at least two weeks:

  • changes in appetite or weight, sleep, or psychomotor activity
  • decreased energy
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • trouble thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • thoughts of death or suicidal plans or attempts

For the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, we recommend that you seek professional help as soon as possible. Many more components can be a characteristic of having Bipolar Disorder this is why it is important not to self-diagnose and ask for the assistance of your General Practitioner.


Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder involves one or more manic episodes or mixed (mania and depression) episodes and at least one major depressive episode. The episodes are not due to a medical condition or substance use.

Bipolar II Disorder
Bipolar II disorder has one or more severe major depressive episodes with at least one hypomanic episode. There are no manic or mixed episodes. Hypomania is a lesser form of mania. It does not disrupt your ability to function as much as bipolar I disorder. The symptoms must cause a lot of distress or problems at work, school, or with relationships. It is common for those with bipolar II disorder to not remember their manic episodes.

Cyclothymia is characterised by changing low-level depression along with periods of hypomania. The symptoms must be present for at least two years before a diagnosis can be made (one year in children). Adults have symptom-free periods that last no longer than two months. Kids and teens have symptom-free periods that last only about a month.

Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
This category is a severe form of bipolar disorder. It occurs when a person has at least four episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states within a year. Rapid cycling affects more women than men. It appears to be more common in those who have their first bipolar episode at a young age.

Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)
This category is for bipolar symptoms that do not clearly fit into other types. NOS is diagnosed when multiple bipolar symptoms are present but not enough to meet the label for any of the other subtypes. This category can also include rapid mood changes that do not last long enough to be true manic or depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder NOS includes multiple hypomanic episodes without a major depressive episode.


Diagnosing Bipolar Disorders In DSM-5
• Emanuel Severus  And Michael Bauer
International Journal Of Bipolar Disorders 2013:14
DOI: 10.1186/2194-7511-1-14
Published: 23 August 2013

Diagnosis For Bipolar Disorder
Written By Brian Krans
Medically Reviewed on July 28, 2014

Bipolar Disorders In DSM-5: Strengths, Problems And Perspectives
• Jules Angst
International Journal Of Bipolar Disorders 2013:12
DOI: 10.1186/2194-7511-1-12
Published: 23 August 2013