The below was shamelessly copied and pasted from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/symptoms.shtml
Keep in mind, while readin' this that some folks are MIS-diagnosed as depressed when their manic episodes are mild or what's called “hypomanic.”
I'm going to put my comments and observations in a different font and color from the NIMH text.
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings—from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.
Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:
Increased energy, activity, and restlessness Lots and lots of energy leads to lots of activity. But the restlessness can cause a person to start multiple projects when they're manic, then never complete them because the depressive cycle hits.
Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood
Extreme irritability Snapping turtle sound familiar? How about rantin' and ravin'?
Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
Distractibility, can’t concentrate well See the above comment under energy.
Little sleep needed
Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual
Increased sexual drive When combined with poor judgement...bad things can happen
Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior As if they no longer have a censor feature in their brain.
Denial that anything is wrong Because no matter how bad it IS, there are also positive aspects to Mania. More about that later.
A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.
Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:
Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood lasting is the Key word in this clause.
Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism Hopelessness is also a suicidal precursor
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness helplessness is another suicidal precursor
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex A low libido is the counterpart of the hypersexuality sometimes seen in Manic episodes
Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down” lethargy, to those unaware of symptoms, can be mis-interpreted as "laziness" instead of a legitimate symptom
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
Restlessness or irritability which can also be a mania symptom
Sleeping too much, or can’t sleep the extremes and the difference between sleep patterns when in a Manic episode or on an even keel is the Key factor to this symptom
Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain As with the above, it's the extremes to look for
Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury which is why a lot of people with depression are MIS-diagnosed as having Fibromyalgia. Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
A depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.
Other sources, the Medical Library Association [in conjunction with NIMH, btw] also lists inflated self esteem, lack of self control and binges of eating or drinking as Manic Episode Symptoms. What NO source lists, and what many M-Ds are reluctant to sacrifice are the bursts of artistic creativity they experience during manias. To them, being medicated is the same as losing their Muse. Jamison writes about this aspect of treating Manic Depression in Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament. She urges treatment that doesn't kill that fire in the process of "curing" the Disorder.
That last would be because there IS no "cure" for Manic Depression. There's treatment, but if you're an M-D, you're always going to BE and M-D. You may get the mood swings under control with medication, but you will need that medication for the rest of your life. Kinda like being hypertensive or a diabetic.
Okey, dokey. We clear on all that? I didn't think so.