Question: What are the differences between bipolar disorder and just being a moody person?
Answer: Thank you for your excellent question; I'm sure you are not alone because I run into this "dilemna" virtually every day at the psychiatric hospital.
It is a mistake to think that swift mood shifts during the course of a day means you are
'Bipolar'. If that were the case, there certainly would be tons of people with the Bipolar diagnosis - because shifts in mood happen to many of us. If the innocent physician jumps to a Bipolar diagnosis, then before you know it, you are suddenly put on mood stabilizing medications perhaps unnecessarily - which then could lead to a cycle of meds and side effects and then more meds.
In contrast, Bipolar disorder, specifically the manic side, occurs over a discrete period of time - lasting many days or weeks - with a combination of abnormally elevated mood, along with many of the following: a profound decreased need for sleep and yet still having tons of energy, going out on spending sprees buying ridiculous stuff, sexual promiscuity, getting super involved in certain projects, impulsivity with little regard for consequences, easy irritability, risk taking behaviors, and in more serious episodes, paranoid and /or grandiose delusions. And almost always these symptoms are accompanied by a profound lack of insight, a lack of awareness of how poorly they are doing, how much chaos they are creating.
Like everything in the field of medicine, good treatment starts with correct diagnosis.