First Signs of Bipolar Disorder


According to the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, 5.7 million adults are affected by bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes extremes in moods from intense mania to severe depression. Untreated bipolar disorder often leads to substance abuse and suicide.

Genetic Significance

According to Freedom from Fear, a national non-profit mental illness advocacy organization, people who have a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder are ten times more likely to develop the disease. Those who have a parent or sibling with a substance abuse problem or other mental illness are also more likely to develop bipolar disorder.

Early Symptoms

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people who are showing early signs of bipolar disorder may show signs of alcohol or drug abuse, poor school or work performance or strained relationships. These may be signs of the inability to function that happens because of the severity in moods that characterizes bipolar disorder.

Time Frame

Signs of bipolar disorder often happen during the teen years or early adulthood although it can happen earlier or later in life. According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, bipolar in teens often manifests as severe depression.


Bipolar disorder often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. According to the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation, teenagers are often diagnosed with depression when they are actually experiencing the depressive side of bipolar.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, keeping a chart of daily mood symptoms can be help with tracking the disorder. Recording sleep patterns and life events should also be recorded and relayed to a doctor when being evaluated for bipolar disorder.


According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the risk of suicide is higher in people who are bipolar and have not been diagnosed. Suicide risk also is higher early on in treatment for bipolar disorder when medications are still being adjusted.

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