Do bipolar people know they are bipolar? That’s a difficult question to answer. In general, it seems that most people who have bipolar disorder at least know or sense that something’s amiss, even if they haven’t been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. While some people living with bipolar disorder may enjoy life, they tend to know that their “up” episode will eventually pass, and the pendulum will swing once again towards a depressive episode. 

Many people living with bipolar disorder hesitate to get help, or they resist even wanting to put a name on their condition because they fear being labeled “crazy” or being hospitalized. However, mental health today, especially when it comes to a condition like bipolar disorder, is much better understood than it was even a decade ago. It’s important to understand that seeking help can be the catapult that allows you to live a more balanced, healthy, stable, enjoyable life.

Untreated Bipolar Disorder

Approximately 2.3 million people in the United States are known to have bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Yet even despite firm data we have to back up this statistic, it’s assumed that many, many more people are living with the condition undiagnosed. 

Left untreated, people with bipolar disorder, such as Bipolar I or Bipolar II, not only face challenges in their quality of life, but they’re also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and live with crippling anxiety and depression. Many have to face the repercussions of poor performance at work and school. 

Those with bipolar disorder also have a shockingly higher rate of suicide and suicidal thoughts than the general population. Studies show that up to 20% of people with (mostly untreated) bipolar disorder will die by suicide. Another estimated 20% – 60% will attempt suicide at least once. 

If an individual does not act on learning how to treat bipolar disorder, it can result in damaged relationships and financial hardship. Bipolar disorder is a life-long condition, and it affects almost every aspect of a person’s life.

“Identifying the signs of bipolar disorder is not complicated, but it requires knowledge. To identify the disorder, it’s recommended that you see a PCP or mental health professional.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Signs of Bipolar Disorder

If you’re wondering how to know if you are bipolar look for bipolar disorder symptoms such as:

  • Unpredictable and extreme mood swings
  • Going from being wired, talkative, and jumpy (manic episode), to feeling melancholy and depressed (depressive episode)
  • Co-occurring disorders, such as alcohol or drug abuse, eating disorders, anxiety issues, and ADHD

Helping Someone Find a Diagnosis

On average, a person with a mental health condition in the United States goes 11 years (!) from the onset of symptoms until they seek effective treatment, according to the NAMI. Someone living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder may be in denial, or they might be afraid of what people will think if their suspicions are confirmed. This is where you can help.

If you’re even thinking or asking do bipolar people know they are bipolar, you obviously suspect and want to do something. If you are concerned someone you care about has bipolar disorder, the first thing you can do is help them get a bipolar disorder diagnosis. 

So how is bipolar disorder diagnosed and what are the next steps? Start by suggesting they go see a mental health professional. You can even offer to go with them. You should know, and it might help if you stress to them, that having a mood disorder is common and not the result of anything they’ve done wrong. Most importantly, what they’re experiencing is nothing they should be ashamed of. There are several other things you can do to help someone experiencing bipolar disorder symptoms take the first steps toward healing. 

Find information

There’s an abundance of online resources available to help those with bipolar disorder and the people who care about them. Recourse from what causes bipolar disorder to how to deal with bipolar disorder can help one better understand the condition. Some of the best places to find accurate, valuable information and learn about this mental health condition are the National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association websites.

“Look for information online from a credible source or get printed materials from your local mental health center or clinic. There are also organizations that you can contact online to request pamphlets or informational sheets.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Get professional help

Treating bipolar disorder requires professional help. Only an experienced healthcare provider can determine if someone has bipolar disorder, and only a licensed physician or psychiatrist can prescribe treatment. When it comes to treatment options available, there is not only bipolar disorder medication, but also therapy for bipolar disorder

“Help the person look for a professional online. There are websites that list the mental health professionals in your area who specialize in bipolar disorder.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

If someone is reluctant to go to the doctor, educating yourself about bipolar disorder can be useful. Then, you can listen to what they have to say about their condition and be more aware of their symptoms.

Be supportive

No one knows for sure the answer to the question: can bipolar people tell they are bipolar? The best course of action, however, as a friend or a family member, is to be supportive and empathetic to what your loved one is going through.

“Offer to go to the appointment with them or to make the first call for them. Sometimes the first step is the most difficult one.”

Talkspace therapist Cynthia V. Catchings, LCSW-S

Millions of Americans live productive lives with bipolar disorder. The most important step isn’t asking can bipolar people tell they are bipolar; it’s encouraging your friend or family member to talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional about their symptoms. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle, loving push to get someone on the path toward a healthy future.

Talkspace offers online therapy as a new way to approach bipolar disorder treatment. Now, you can take the added burden of getting to and from appointments out of the equation. Learn more about how Talkspace can provide convenient and affordable talk therapy to treat bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions. 

Medically reviewed by: Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, MSW

Reviewed On: June 14, 2022