Disconnected: Noticing Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder in Others

Amy Dodd Pilkington Noticing Undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder

I see it often. Perhaps it’s that I have experienced the symptoms of bipolar disorder so many times over the years that it sticks out to me. Regardless of why I recognize it, I am noticing undiagnosed bipolar disorder in others and watching several people currently in manic episodes headed straight to disaster.

What goes up must come down, and the higher you are the harder you’ll smack the ground. I see at least two people flying pretty high right now in full-blown mania. One is about to fall over the edge. The other hasn’t made it that far yet. I see it. They are both going to smack the ground. Hard.

Symptoms of Mania

The problem is I can’t say anything. I can’t point out that I recognize the symptoms and think it is undiagnosed bipolar disorder. I can’t warn them about what’s happening. Why? They are manic. They are feeling important. They are feeling full of great ideas and jump from one venture to the next. Both feel like everyone else is the problem. Even if I spoke up, neither would believe me. I would be labeled as yet another one of the people they think are problems and I am trying to keep my own head above water right now.

The symptoms of mania are:

  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy, or wired
  • Increased activity, energy, or agitation
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Unusual talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks, or making foolish investments

Manic and hypomanic episodes include three or more symptoms. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Stages of Mania

There are three stages of mania:

  1. Hypomania (Stage I). Hypomania is a milder form of mania. Friends and family may not recognize it as a symptom. It affects sleep and can lead to impulsive behavior. Hypomania is not associated with psychosis.
  2. Acute Mania (Stage II). This stage involves increased impulsive behavior that can cause them to act arrogant, inappropriate, reckless, and/or promiscuous. They will get less sleep but have more energy. They talk quickly and often jump from one topic to another. Someone experiencing acute mania might experience some symptoms of psychosis, meaning they are not completely connected to reality.
  3. Delirious Mania (Stage III). This is the most severe form of mania. It shares the symptoms of acute mania but also includes delirium. Delirium is confusion and a disconnection from reality. They may experience psychosis, meaning they may hallucinate or hear voices. Delirium is extremely disorienting. This stage may require hospitalization.

Source: The Recovery Village

Breaking down the symptoms of mania

Let me break down those symptoms in ways you can relate. If you jump from idea to idea or project to project, that’s mania. If you’re talking in circles or talking fast, that’s mania. If you have a grand idea and then another grand idea and another and have so many things you think you want to do, that’s mania. If you think your new idea is bigger and better than the last dozen ideas you’ve recently had, that’s mania. If you think you’ve suddenly had a mental growth spurt and outgrown lots of people, that’s mania. (Real growth takes time. It absolutely does not happen in a short period of time.)

Shall I continue? I think I will. If you decide to do one thing and then decide you want to do another thing and then change your mind and decide to do another thing while figuring out the first thing you started was more than you could handle, you’re manic. (Yikes. If you understood that run-on sentence without reading it again, you might be manic.) If you find you’re operating on little sleep and still have tons of energy to take on projects, you’re manic. And if you receive advice and opinions from multiple people that match but you think it’s them and not you, you’re manic.

Mania affects your judgment

Taking on a bunch of new jobs or starting new businesses or planning big changes in more than one thing in a short period of time? Mania. Feel like you’re doing great in life but things are crumbling around you and you think it’s everyone else? It’s you. You’re manic. If you’re paranoid and think people are out to get you, are talking about you, or are being mean to you, you’re manic. If you think everyone you are or were close to is trying to rain or your parade or hold you back, you are manic.

If you’re engaging in risky behavior like spending lots of money, drinking more, doing drugs, gambling, or cheating, it’s mania. If you’re considering these things and cycling through ideas like making large purchases, quitting a job or changing careers or opening a new business, or making any kind of big change, you are manic. If you’re easily distracted and think you might have suddenly developed ADD, that’s mania.

Undiagnosed bipolar disorder: Accepting hard truths

Listen, I know it’s hard to accept that you could have a problem. I know it’s even harder to accept that the problem isn’t other people. I have had to swallow that jagged pill so many times over the last decade. It tastes awful bitter and burns going down every single time. However, if you start finding yourself surrounded by people you think are problems and getting the same feedback from several people, odds are you’re the problem.

Mania is a monster. Depression hurts you. Mania hurts others and you. You just don’t realize you’re hurt until you come down and see the truth. Nobody notices mania. Nobody wants to believe it’s a problem. Nobody gets treatment while they still can to avoid the ensuing disaster – depression. Why? Because mania is a high. You think everyone loves you, and if they don’t agree with you all the time then they are the problem. You think you’re filled with great, life-changing ideas. You think you’re on top of the world and can’t figure out why other people can’t see your visions. It feels good…until it doesn’t. When mania goes away and you realize its effects, it will hurt. Bad.

Bipolar depression is deadly

Bipolar depression kills. Up to 60% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once. Up to 19% will complete suicide. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder means untreated bipolar disorder, and that’s dangerous.

Source: National Library of Medicine

Treating bipolar disorder in the mania phase before it reaches the depression stage can help avoid the lowest of the lows that kill.

Noticing undiagnosed bipolar disorder is hard

I see two people who are completely caught up in a manic high. Don’t get me wrong. I see more than that who are hypomanic and headed to full-blown mania. However, those two people are going to fall into a deep, dark depressive episode. It’s just a matter of time. I can’t say anything because I’ve seen how they’ve reacted to other people, and I have enough struggles of my own as I try to tread water. It’s hard to sit back and watch, helplessly.

Please, please, please recognize your mania. Get help. And if you notice a close friend or family member exhibiting signs of mania, tell them. Talk to them. Try to help them. Perhaps they’ll listen to you. Mania feels great, but the depression that follows can kill. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder can kill.

Read more below.


This is mania. If you don’t know the song, look up the lyrics. It’s mania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.