One of the most debilitating mental illnesses, Bipolar Disorder (sometimes called Manic Depression) is found in nearly 3% of adults in the US. People with it suffer from severe mood swings – manic episodes follow by severe depression. They cannot control their mood swings. Their activity levels and energies vary widely and self-harm is likely in the depressive phases. It can be tricky to diagnose Bipolar Disorder, however, if substance abuse is also present. Getting a professional diagnosis is important. Here are some ways to tell if someone you know is Bipolar.

Energy Levels May Be Extreme

Bipolar Disorder is chiefly characterized by wildly fluctuating energy levels in those that have it. Someone bipolar may stay awake all night working on a project, acting like they have had way too much coffee. Conversely, the low periods may find the sufferer unable to get out of bed, bathe, dress, or attend to even simple routine tasks.

Depression Is Deep And Terrible

Unlike normal “blues” Bipolar depression sends the sufferer into a dark place where no light can penetrate. Apathy and hopelessness are common. They experience overwhelming feelings about death and dying and may find it impossible to come out of these episodes on their own.  Grooming and eating may not occur, as the person stays in bed for hours.

Manic State Behavior Is Difficult To Anticipate

When a Bipolar sufferer comes out of the depressive state and cycles into mania, they may engage in any number of risky behaviors – drug use, binge eating, overspending, gambling. They may have sex with a number of partners, possibly complete strangers. They feel invincible. Friends and relatives often have a hard time convincing the bipolar sufferer that their manic behavior is dangerous.

Paying Attention Is Harder

When a bipolar sufferer is in a manic state they may find it very difficult to focus on anything for very long. Thoughts race along, sometimes uncontrollably. Carrying on a conversation may be impossible. Conversely, when a sufferer is depressed, they may have trouble remembering what was just said to them because they are so focused on themselves.

Sleep Cycles May Be Highly Unusual

In a depressed state, bipolar people may sleep all the time. They have no energy and can spend most of the day in bed. In a manic state, bipolar people may not sleep at all during the night, because they are so focused on activities. They often cannot self-regulate at all, and may not even want to try. They may feel like they are highly productive and want to ride out the wave of energetic activities instead of sleeping.