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What is High-Functioning Bipolar Disorder?

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If you seem to be well-functioning in your daily life despite having symptoms of Bipolar disorder, then it can be called high-functioning. This essentially refers to the fact that one may be working, have personal relationships that are functional, and be able to live independently. 

Symptoms of High Functioning Bipolar Disorder

Someone who has high-functioning bipolar disorder is seen to have the following symptoms:

  • Milder symptoms of Bipolar
  • Symptoms that  don’t affect one’s work
  • Symptoms that don’t affect one’s relationships

Symptoms of mania (manic episode)

Some of the symptoms may include:

  • extreme feelings of excitement 
  • unusually high energy levels
  • having grand ideas and plans
  • feeling self-important
  • not feeling like eating or sleeping
  • talking very loudly or quickly
  • illogical reasoning or delusions
  • making high-risk or unusual decisions, one wouldn’t typically make

Symptoms of depression (depressive episode)

Some of the symptoms may include:

  • extreme sadness or feeling low
  • loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • very low energy levels
  • memory and concentration difficulties
  • feelings of guilt
  • low appetite
  • insomnia
  • suicidal ideation

Diagnosing high-functioning bipolar disorder

There are no diagnostic criteria for high-functioning bipolar disorder. A mental health professional may diagnose a person with bipolar disorder but acknowledge that they are high functioning. Based on the DSM-5-TR, one’s assessment can look like the following:

Bipolar I disorder

A person has had one or more manic episodes lasting at least 7 days or fewer than 7 days if the person required hospitalization. The person may also have experienced depressive episodes.

Bipolar II disorder

A person experiences at least one depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but not a “full” manic episode, in bipolar II disorder.

Cyclothymic disorder

Also called cyclothymia, it is a chronically unstable mood state in which a person experiences hypomania and mild depression for at least 2 years.

Bipolar disorder (other or unspecified)

If a person has experienced periods of significant mood elevation but does not meet the criteria for the types above, a doctor may diagnose “other specified” or “other” bipolar disorder.

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Causes of high-functioning bipolar disorder

If a person has experienced periods of significant mood elevation but does not meet the criteria for the types above, a doctor may diagnose “other specified” or “other” bipolar disorder.

Chemical imbalance

An imbalance of the brain chemicals norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine may play a role in the development of bipolar disorder, whether it be an overload or a smaller amount being present in the body. 

Genetic factors

People who have a relative with bipolar disorder, a grandparent, parent, or sibling,  are more likely to have the condition themselves. The exact link is unclear, but the cause may be genetic. 

Environmental factors

Significant events, such as the loss of a family member or leaving home for the first time, may trigger the onset of bipolar disorder. Any kind of external trauma which is significant enough may lead to bipolar disorder.

Treatment Options

Treatment aims to stabilize a person’s mood and manage their symptoms, which may include:


The most common medications used to treat symptoms are mood stabilizers, such as lithium and second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs).


Psychotherapy can help relieve a person’s symptoms and equip them with strategies to manage bipolar disorder. Or, if medication and psychotherapy have not helped manage a person’s symptoms, a doctor may suggest ECT.

Lifestyle Changes and Support Systems

Some lifestyle changes may help a person maintain a stable mood. Such changes may include keeping a regular routine, having a regular sleep pattern, maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet, and getting regular exercise.

Coping With High Functioning Bipolar

The lived experience of bipolar disorder can be different for everyone. This is due to a wide range of factors, including the type of bipolar one has, one’s life circumstances, whether one is getting treatment and support, what kind of treatment one is undergoing, how well the treatment works, and which phase one is currently in.

Encouragement and hope for individuals with high-functioning bipolar disorder with Cadabams

We at Cadabams, truly understand the need for us to be able to take care of our mental health in the 21st Century. We believe in getting the best healthcare that one can get, and that is why we have the best teams ready to guide and help you through high-functioning bipolar disorder. Our top-of-the-state facilities and treatment plans, along with seasoned professionals, are sure to help you get to the regular life that you have been wanting to go back to. 

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabam’s Rehabilitation Centre can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their Bipolar Disorder. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949.

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1. What is a high-functioning bipolar person?

If you seem to be well-functioning in your daily life despite having symptoms of Bipolar disorder, you can be called high-functioning. This essentially refers to the fact that you may be working, have functional personal relationships, and be able to live independently. 

2. Can a bipolar person seem normal?

Yes, they can seem ‘normal’. Bipolar may not be seen explicitly through untrained eyes, and it may appear simply as drastic mood changes—which it is, which is a symptom of bipolar disorder itself. The level of ‘normalcy’ also depends on how the individual is able to function on a day-to-day basis, and if it doesn’t seem to affect their work or their social relationships, then it is likely they are the ‘high-functioning’ kind. 

3. What does high-functioning bipolar look like?

It looks like bipolar disorder—and sometimes, not even that. The point of it being classified informally as ‘high-functioning’ is to suggest that the individual with the disorder can be highly functional in their daily lives, and the disorder doesn’t seem to be affecting them much in terms of severe symptoms. 

4. Can a bipolar person seem normal?

Yes, a bipolar person can seem normal—in fact, there is nothing that is ‘abnormal’ about them at all. To untrained eyes, the symptoms may even pass off as high-functioning, and they go about their day just as others do. If their symptoms are too severe, they will need help, but with the right help and treatment, they can function ‘normally.’  

5. What is the first red flag of bipolar disorder?

One red flag of bipolar mania is feeling stressed out by sitting still, combined with a sense of anxiety over what will happen if you don't take action immediately (even when there is nothing to take action over).

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