Question: I’m getting a lot of mood swings and day by day it's getting worse. Are these signs of bipolar disorder?
Juan S., Astoria, NY
Answer: One of the defining characteristics of bipolar disorder is periods of sadness and hopelessness (depression) followed by periods of hyper-activity and euphoria (manic) or vice versa; periods of manic thoughts followed by periods of depression. That’s why some people call it “manic-depressive disorder”. Very often these “mood” symptoms are combined with “behavior” symptoms. For example, during a manic phase, a person might be restless, have racing thoughts, act impulsively (eg. Shopping spree).
What is important to recognize though, is that everyone has mood swings on occasion. We all go through periods where we are happy and periods when we are sad, and generally we are somewhere in the middle of that continuum. You should start being concerned when these periods are extreme happiness or sadness, last a significant amount of time, and are affecting your daily functioning.
If you think that you may have bipolar disorder, it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion by visiting a mental health professional. There are millions of people that have bipolar disorder who live successful and fulfilling lives. The key is speaking with a professional and finding the proper help for you.