Question: How can I tell the difference between a bipolar relapse and the daily 'ups' and 'downs' of life?
Answer: The answer to this question really depends on the individual person. Oftentimes, patients with bipolar disorder will know when things are starting to oscillate a little too much and their mood states are actually not really the same as the daily ups and downs of ordinary life.
If that's happening, then the person themselves will often know. In addition, the best gauge for whether a person's emotional state and thoughts and behaviors are really not their usual ups and downs is family members and occasionally treaters. So people who know the person well will often be able to tell the person, "We know that you don't feel like things are really out of the ordinary, but things definitely are starting to become more severe. So you should get help." So it's really combination of the individual's own judgment combined with the people who know the patient well.