Symptoms of Bipolar Mania or Personality Traits?

July 23, 2013 Alexa Poe

Typically, when people talk about bipolar disorder, the extent of their understanding and knowledge about the disorder is that we have our ups and downs. We become depressed, followed by an episode of mania (intense energy and ups). Many people who do not live with bipolar disorder or do not have experience with it do not understand that we live with so much more – the good and the bad.

However, I frequently wonder if some of my traits, such as my irritability, is really a symptom of the bipolar disorder as my doctors say, or if these are really just personality traits of mine. These bipolar symptoms, though, that are often thought of as personality traits, are rarely mentioned outside of the doctor's office, and I think that these are very important things to talk about with those in your support system.

Infrequently Mentioned Symptoms

Irritability and explosive behavior: I was diagnosed with bipolar II, and I live with severe irritability on a daily basis. During a manic episode, it is very difficult for me to be out in public. When out in public, especially crowded places such as malls, I feel as if the entire world outside of my brain, such as the speed at which people are walking, is moving much slower than I am, and I can become explosive, feeling as if my body cannot contain all of the energy and irritability that I am feeling. This can also lead to urges to act on dangerous impulses due to the feeling of wanting to crawl out of your own skin and to release this awful energy.

There are quite a few symptoms of bipolar mania that can be mistaken as personality traits. Is it irritability or bipolar? Impulsivity or bipolar? Read this.

Impulsivity and recklessness: impulsivity often contributes to risky sexual behaviors and excessive spending sprees. A few years ago, I applied for a credit card, and racked up debt to almost $1,000 over a somewhat short amount of time, and I can never keep any money in my pocket whenever I receive it. I buy things that I want, things that I need, and things that aren't even close to things that I like. As for recklessness, I believe this goes hand-in-hand with impulsivity, and it often causes excessive speeding, for example, and feeling as if you can do and conquer just about anything. When I get this way, I drive like a maniac -- the complete opposite of how I normally am.

Obsessive behaviors such as excessive cleaning and obsessive exercising is common due to increased energy levels and reduced need for sleep. My first major manic episode was in 2009, and I didn't sleep for about a week that I can actually remember. I stayed up constantly, reorganizing and thoroughly cleaning my entire house, refolding all linens in the closets, relining all cabinets and drawers in the kitchen, and when I wasn't cleaning, I was looking for new ideas online. I don't remember ever feeling tired. I just embraced this new amazing feeling and rode it out until I knew that something was wrong.

Increased interest in pleasurable activities: due to increased levels of energy, many people often pile on the activities and goals onto their to-do lists – again, feeling as if they can accomplish anything. I clean everything, reorganize everything in my living space, get school work done weeks in advance, and write for hours, among other things.

Tell me, what symptoms do you experience that you wish others could be aware of and understand? Are there any symptoms that you wish your doctors would specifically recognize? Share your thoughts!

You can also find Alexa Poe on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

APA Reference
Poe, A. (2013, July 23). Symptoms of Bipolar Mania or Personality Traits?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Alexa Poe

July, 23 2013 at 6:16 am

Hi Alexa :) I find my patience is gone when I'm going manic. Grocery stores drive me crazy too...people are moving way too slow,the isles are crowded,I can't find what I want, etc. I make a habit of shopping when there are fewer crowds, and having my son(he's 27) with me-he helps with the shopping so I get out of there quickly. I have overspent also,definitely on unneeded things, so much so that my son said not to buy anything else when he was with me at the time. Reckless driving fits in there too sometimes. I get more done when manic, school work, cleaning, reading. I sometimes want to and have punched a wall when manic, also when I'm going into a depression. I find it hard to do things then, I want to sleep more, don't want to go out ,don't want to do anything. My husband asks if I just I'm okay when he sees I'm slipping and we will schedule an MD appointment. My doctor has a pretty good handle on what goes on for bipolar patients, so I know I am in great hands. The bipolar is under control right now and all is far, so good.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 23 2013 at 7:10 am

Hi there! Thank you so much for replying, and I'm glad that you're doing well! It's really great that you have that support system, too.
Again, thank you for sharing! I hope you stay well!
-- Alexa

July, 24 2013 at 6:59 am

Personally I have a problem with Focus, I'm either focused wholly one thing to an obsessive point or I can't focus on anything because my focus is being pulled a hundred different directions. Either way things I needed to do are left undone, which is not ok with me because ultimately I am a perfectionist. Another symptom I feel people don't realize is Self Hate, we hate ourselves for not being able to control ourselves like everyone else seemingly can.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 24 2013 at 1:03 pm

"Self hate" is something that I think about all the time, and I'm glad you brought this up. I really do wish that people realized that many of us do hate ourselves for many of our symptoms, such as the irritability and explosive behaviors that I struggle with. It would be much easier to communicate with others and our love ones, I think so anyway, if there could be an easier way to express this effectively.
Thank you for sharing, and I hope you're doing well!
-- Alexa

July, 24 2013 at 1:24 pm

Recently being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I don't have a great understanding of mania. I recognize that irritability is the biggest thing I wish more people would understand. It doesn't take much to set me off and make me want to scream, kick, yell, cry, and etc. I don't feel like I'm asking for much when I want people to know how to do their job, or drive like they're suppose (in my mindset), or be quiet, or leave me alone, and the list can go on and on. Often times my family and friends tell me to just let something go, but I can't and its hard to explain that I just can't let it go. It pulls some kind of anger and/or frustration out of me. Plus telling me to just let something go, only upsets me more.
Self hatred is another thing that I deal with on a regular basis. I hate myself for being angry, upset, emotional, or when I just can't do something like I expect to be able to.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 24 2013 at 2:04 pm

I feel like you explained how I feel (and many, many other people living with bipolar disorder as well) exactly! Thank you so much for sharing, and I hope you're well.
-- Alexa

Christal Roberts
July, 24 2013 at 4:31 pm

My son has been diagnosed with mood disorder nos but me and his therapist feel he exhibits bi-polar symptoms. He's 12 and can't get psychiatrist to diagnose bi-polar. He doesn't seem to have any maniac episodes but he's also diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and insomnia and takes meds for these (Concerta, Kapvay, Seraquil) so I'm thinking this may be why he's not showing signs of mania. He is extremely irritable. Any thoughts?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 25 2013 at 6:27 am

Well, I'm unable to offer much input here since I'm not a doctor, physician, or mental health specialist, but it's certainly understandable that doctors may be wary about diagnosing at such a young age. Personally, my own onset began around the age of 12, and I didn't exhibit any manic symptoms until age 19, and my most prominent symptom has always been severe irritability. Every person is unique and exhibits symptoms in many different ways, so just keep in mind that brain chemistry is all the time changing, regardless of the use of psychiatric medications, so it's definitely hard to say what your son is living with.
I hope the two of you are well, though, and keep in touch!
-- Alexa

July, 25 2013 at 3:57 am

Wow this article is great! I can definitely relate to that awful feeling of wanting to crawl out of your own skin. I rarely (practically never) have highs where I actually feel 'high'- I feel frustrated and agitated. I try to do a million different things but ultimately end up getting absolutely nothing done because i cant focus. And don't get me started on the credit card debt I have racked up on all manner of things! Aaaagh!
I sometimes wish I had the obsessive cleaning and organising issue, or exercising-at least it would be useful! I can't even finish doing the dishes without getting distracted....hahaha!
Then when I'm down-well good luck getting me out of bed.
Still, I accept and manage how I am and consider myself to be a sort of organised chaos. I have to be careful not to overload myself with mountains of things to do.
What I find hard is that bipolar is considered to be highs and lows- it makes it sound like the highs are somehow positive....mostly I found them downright unpleasant, unsettling, uncomfortable.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 25 2013 at 6:43 am

I also generally find that my "highs" are more unpleasant than what other people experience, but I guess we have to find a way to make it as positive as we can, right? Thank you for sharing, and I hope you're well!
-- Alexa

July, 25 2013 at 6:16 am

One of the things that I find is hardest about all of this is that the people I have in my life like to bring these things up repeatedly and I feel like the bad puppy having my face rubbed in my mess all the time. I want to do better, but I find I am so out of control at these times and it is only compounded by people's lack of compassion and support for me. I am not a bad person, I am doing my best to deal with a bad case of bipolar disorder.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 25 2013 at 7:44 am

I can imagine that that is an incredibly difficult thing to live with, especially while trying to cope. Have you found any books or resources to help you cope with this, or to possibly help educate your loved ones about things that happen that are out of your control?
Hang in there, and I hope you're doing well!
-- Alexa

Shelly shores
July, 25 2013 at 10:43 am

I feel isolated and lonely at home so I talk to and text strangers. My spouse always finds out because my depression worsens. He thinks I am cheating on him but I am not. I am venting to complete strangers who are probably bored enough to hear me babble on about my life. It makes my husband not trust me and I feel even more insecure, that is my mania and mixed states. I would like for him to go to therapy with me, but his mind is closed. It hurts.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 25 2013 at 11:23 am

I'm sorry you feel so isolated and lonely. Have you possibly looked into finding any local support groups or community groups? That could very well be just as beneficial as texting strangers, and you would be able to get out of the house as well.
I hope things really turn around for you. Remember that you are never alone, regardless of how you may feel.
-- Alexa

July, 25 2013 at 1:58 pm

mine is the self-hate when I do not have the energy to anything and I know that things need to get done. My way to handle is to get in my car and drive until I feel better. Not on the main roads, through the country.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 26 2013 at 2:12 pm

That sounds like an effective coping strategy -- thank you for sharing!
I hope you're well!
-- Alexa

July, 25 2013 at 2:58 pm

Hi, never commented before. But I also do not have any part of the cleaning (Oh, how I wish) or organizing or over doing. I consider myself "great" if I can manage to put myself on "auto-Pilot" when in the dark hole. But mostly I'm in bed. I think about what I could or should be doing. Just can't seem to get there often. My anger is uncontrollable at times. I get to the point where I know the anger is stupid, but I get so angry I can't stand myself! Luckily my MD put me on Namenda 3 years ago for the anger, and I can isolate myself most times till it passes without creating a scene, or looking like a fool.
Alexa is right, it is a constantly changing disorder, meds for me change every 5 or 6 yrs, and added meds when I fall down hard. Then when I come up for air, they go back to the reg 5 scripts a day. Weight gain is a problem for me with many meds. Some of the people I work with are aware of my fall coming about as I tend to laugh uncontrollably, that a red flag for me and people who know me. ( not my family as they refuse to believe mental illness, to them, I choose to be this way. I could will it away like quitting smoking or something) spending? I wish it was only a few thousand, its Not!!
I take inventory at stores, ( my obsession) I can tell you where to buy, and for how much, and if a store has what you want.!! I've had this depression, Bi-polor, since age 16, it has now progressed to Borderline Personality Disorder. ;-(
Driving is my release but you can find me driving 100-120 mph if I'm upset.
I'm babbling now I'm sorry. I find it helps if I just tell people my meds are not working well, if I'm having a problem. I'm not embarrassed about my illness, I'm up front about it. That way, people either like me or go away. I also cut, but have gone as long as 34 years between those episodes of (Self hatred to the extend of using serrated knifes)
I wish they would change the name, instead of "Mental Illness" to brain in balance or thought process disorder, something that sounds more real, or definitive , mental illness has a bad connotation from so, so, long ago, it scares people. Or your just thought of as a "Wing-Nut" ;-/ thanks for listening or reading if you got this far. ;-) P.S. I'm 55 now.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 26 2013 at 2:23 pm

Hi there! Thank you so much for commenting and sharing! Never be afraid to do so!
I never really thought too much about the laughing uncontrollably as a sign. This happens to me every so often and leads to episodes, but I never thought to associate the two. Also, I understand that self-hatred and self-injury very much, and it's amazing that you've gone so long in between episodes!
Again, thank you for commenting and sharing, and I hope you're doing well!
-- Alexa

July, 25 2013 at 6:51 pm

Great article. I used to enjoy being manic but now I just get frozen by fear because of the paranoia I experience. I cant leave the house, I'll pace for hours. The self loathing is unbearable. I was diagnosed after a mixed episode. It's hard to explain to friends and family when they believe being manic means high and happy. Actually, they don't believe I have bipolar disorder at all even though I have been hospitized during episodes. I still get teased by family for thinking I was being spied on for almost a year. It was the most awful paranoid year of my life that resulted in an attempt to take my life. I wish more people would understand bipolar isn't simply up and down. Thanks for the great article. Keep up the good work you're doing!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 26 2013 at 2:16 pm

First, thank you so much for your positive words! It really means a lot.
I'm sorry about being teased and misunderstood by your loved ones. I know that that is always terribly painful. Hopefully now you don't experience such severe episodes of paranoia that causes suicidal ideation, and I sincerely hope you're well.
-- Alexa

Samantha J
July, 29 2013 at 6:00 pm

So glad I stumbled on this. After years of being referred to as 'very passionate' and 'extremely moody' I've been diagnosed with bipolar (along with major depression and generalized anxiety for the heck of it). The things you explain are so similar to how I feel. I've been going between mania and deep depression every few days for the past 4-5 months. It hasn't been like this since I was a teen- they said my hormones were just really, really, REALLY out of wack back then. Lol. My husband is trying really hard to help but it's hard to explain that sometimes I just hate humans while I'm running around starting project after project while scrubbing all the baseboards. It's nice to know there are others out there.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 30 2013 at 3:26 am

I'm glad you found this as well, and I'm glad it helped you! Thank you for commenting and sharing.
I know it can be hard to explain to people, I have the same problem. I hope that this can help you, and I hope your moods become more stable soon.
-- Alexa

July, 30 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi i'm new here. I suffer many personality disorders my BPD RAGE is just out of control, it's just getting worse, I snap at the things that my family don't get why I go nuts. I am scared as I have got physicaly crazy by strangling and other stuff with my sister but my mum stopped me I was so crazy with rage I don't remember all what happened, my physciatrist thinks I also could well be a ADHD sufferer. I am suicidal to eurphoric etc etc... please help me. please tell me if you too suffer the same and if you too have " lost it !" what happened what helped. i'm going through a lot at moment too which has not helped.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alexa Poe
July, 30 2013 at 1:42 pm

Hi there. I'm glad you found us, and I'm glad you decided to comment.
While I personally haven't physically "lost it," I do think about it quite a lot when I get so overwhelmingly irritated and angry. However, I do know quite a few people who do get physically enraged as you describe. I am not quite sure how I can help you since I am not a doctor, but I think one of the best things you can do is to keep seeing your psychiatrist and to attend a form of therapy. Also, I say this a lot because I firmly believe it, always remember that you're not alone and that you're not the only one who suffers with the same things. I'm sure that many readers here and elsewhere experience the same things.
I hope you're well tonight, and hang in there.
-- Alexa

October, 9 2017 at 3:16 pm

I'm obsessed with cleaning and projects when I'm manic. I'm irritable most days. When I was younge I wanted sex all the time that even my 28 yr old nd couldn't keep up with me. Thankfully my meds curbed that obsession.

January, 1 2021 at 9:49 am

Hi my names alexis I’m 18. When I was 12 I was diagnosed with depression , anxiety , and ADD. I have bipolar symptoms , but I’m not sure if it’s just my ADD. I get irritable over every little thing. I have these moments were I clean like a crazy person. I have a spending problem whenever I’m upset , stressed, angry I spend money. I’ve spent my whole pay check and I get paid every two weeks. I make $617 but also have medicine , $100 for my boyfriends mom, and phone bill. I also have terrible body image. I only eat once a day either an actual meal (McDonald’s) or a pop tart because I’m extremely picky and I won’t eat unless it’s something I want. I restrict myself a lot and it’s gotten worse. When I’m in public everything freezes and my anxiety gets 10x worse everything moves slower and seems like I’m in a stimulation. My moods are all over the place . I never am in either a happy mood all day it literally goes up and down 1,000 times a day. Again I have ADD. Sometimes I have moods where I want to have sex all the time and it’s like this for a week and then I won’t anymore. I’ve bought stuff for new hobbies end just never do it. I’ve spent so much money on necklace and earring kits, crystals etc and I do nothing with them. I just lost my interest. I have really bad intrusive thoughts. I get paranoid that I’m being watched 24/7 especially when I’m sleeping. When I have these cleaning feelings I feel like I’m almost on top of the world like I can do anything it’s incredible feeling but then I crash. When I was 12 they also misdiagnosed me as bipolar. My psychiatrist doesn’t really listen to me. I don’t live with my mom, I moved out because of emotional abuse right after I turned 18.

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