Bipolar disorder episodes can affect the way a person thinks, recalls information, and concentrates.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that affects a person’s mood, energy levels, and ability to think. It often includes episodes of depression and episodes of mania or hypomania, which can affect thought patterns in different ways. The condition can also affect memory.

This article explains how bipolar disorder can affect the way a person thinks, explaining common thought patterns during manic and depressive episodes. It also goes over how bipolar disorder can affect memory.

Person standing in the middle of a sand labyrinthShare on Pinterest
Trinette Reed/Stocksy

Bipolar disorder can affect a person in various ways. The type of bipolar disorder partly determines this.

There are three main types of bipolar disorder:

The main factor that separates these types is the presence of manic episodes.

Bipolar I typically involves episodes of both mania and episodes of depression. These can last 1 week or more.

Bipolar II involves episodes of both depression and hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania that does not usually involve psychosis.

Cyclothymic disorder involves symptoms of both mania and depression that do not meet the diagnostic criteria of full episodes.

Manic episodes and depressive episodes can both affect how a person thinks. They will generally affect a person’s thinking in different ways because of the symptoms they involve.

Learn more about the types of bipolar disorder.

Thought patterns of someone with bipolar disorder

Thought patterns during an episode of bipolar symptoms may include the following:

Was this helpful?

Learn about managing suicidal ideation.

Episodes of mania often involve mood changes where the individual feels “up” or in high spirits. These episodes may also include irritability.

The mood changes involved with mania are generally a departure from how the individual usually acts. Behavioral changes during a manic episode may include:

  • a decreased need for sleep
  • increased activity, such as working on multiple projects at once or being restless
  • experiencing an excessive appetite for things like food, sex, and alcohol
  • participating in behaviors that may carry risk, such as spending sprees or driving dangerously

Along with these behavioral changes, a manic episode can affect how a person thinks. Changing thought patterns may include:

  • feeling wired or jumpy
  • flights of ideas, which may lead a person to talk quickly about many different topics
  • racing thoughts
  • feeling unusually talented, powerful, or important
  • symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and disorganized thinking

Episodes of hypomania include symptoms of mania. However, they are not as severe and do not last as long as full manic episodes. Hypomania also does not generally interfere with a person’s daily functioning in the same way that full mania can.

Learn more about the differences between mania and hypomania.

Depressive episodes often involve low moods, as well as feelings of sadness and anxiety. These low moods can be so severe that an individual finds it difficult to get out of bed.

Behavioral changes with depressive conditions can include:

Thought process changes during a depressive episode may include:

  • feeling sad, down, or anxious
  • talking slowing
  • feeling unable to find something to say
  • forgetfulness
  • difficulty making decisions and concentrating
  • experiencing a lack of interest in most activities
  • feeling worthless or hopeless
  • having thoughts of suicide or death

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

Was this helpful?

Learn more about depression in bipolar disorder.

Research has shown that bipolar disorder can affect memory in various ways. According to a 2017 systemic review, one of the main ways it does this is by affecting working memory.

Working memory is when the brain stores information temporarily so a person can work with it and connect it to other information.

People with bipolar disorder can experience forgetfulness, especially during depressive episodes.

Learn more about how bipolar disorder can affect memory.

Psychosis describes a group of symptoms that affect the mind. It involves a loss of contact with reality. A person experiencing an episode of psychosis may have difficulty recognizing what is real and what is not. They may also find their thoughts disrupted and experience difficulty thinking clearly and logically.

According to a systemic review from 2022, more than 50% of people with bipolar disorder experience symptoms of psychosis.

Symptoms of psychosis in bipolar disorder typically include delusions, hallucinations, or both. These symptoms are more common during episodes of mania than episodes of depression.

Some specific symptoms of psychosis that are common among people with bipolar disorder include:

  • auditory hallucinations (hearing voices)
  • visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not there)
  • delusions of grandeur (false or unusual beliefs about one’s wealth, talents, power, or other traits)
  • referential delusions (the belief that ordinary situations have significant meaning)
  • persecutory delusions (the belief that someone is spying on or attempting to harm them)

Learn more about psychosis in bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on bipolar disorder.

Was this helpful?

Bipolar disorder can affect the way a person thinks in various ways. The precise effects on an individual’s thought processes will depend on whether they are experiencing an episode of mania or depression.

During a manic episode, people may have racing thoughts or flights of ideas. During a depressive episode, they may find it challenging to concentrate and experience forgetfulness. Some symptoms may overlap between mania and depression.

A person with bipolar disorder may also experience issues with their working memory or have symptoms of psychosis.

Bipolar disorder is manageable with proper treatments. It is important for a person who is experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder to speak with a healthcare professional.