Support for College Students with Bipolar Disorder

About 5.7 million Americans age 18 and older experience Bipolar Disorder and the feeling of being pulled extreme highs (mania) and lows (depression), according to NIMH. These extreme shifts in mood can happen rapidly or they can persist for a length of time. A person has to exhibit at least one episode of mania or hypomania in order to be diagnosed with bipolar illness.  While the depressive periods in Bipolar disorder are similar to depressive disorder, the symptoms of elevated mood may be mild and feel more manageable (hypomania), alternating between depression and mania (mixed episodes) or classical severe mania (Bipolar I).

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder


  • Excessively "high," euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers, such as feeling able to control world events
  • Decreased need for sleep without feeling tired
  • Racing thoughts or fast speech
  • Distractibility or difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation
  • Spending sprees
  • Increased energy, activity and restlessness
  • Poor judgment
  • Lasting period of behavior that is different than usual
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol and sleeping medications
  • Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior
  • Denial that anything is wrong


  • Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, including sex
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much 
  • Feeling tired or run down

If You Are in Crisis: Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text START to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All communications are confidential.

Getting help on campus

If you’re experiencing many of these signs and symptoms and it’s impairing your ability to function as a college student, we suggest you:

  • Talk to friends and family about it.
  • Go to the college counseling office, see a psychiatrist, seek out support groups on campus (i.e., Active Minds).
  • Try integrating these non-clinical holistic skills that can help:
    • Exercise
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
    • Mindfulness
    • Better Nutrition

If you’ve tried these and are still feeling very overwhelmed then maybe a medical leave of absence is the right move for you. 

A medical leave of absence from school can be a scary concept where you’re worried about falling behind and leaving your classmates, but the pause may be the most important step you take.   

Let us help

College Re-Entry is a semester long non-clinical program that can provide the structure and community that you need during your medical leave of absence to return to college with confidence. 

CRE has mindfulness, fitness, nutrition specialists to develop a wellness plan to help you gain more control over your symptoms.  You’ll also have access to one-on-one coaching from our social workers, be paired with a mentor who experienced mental health challenges in college and improve your academic skills and stress relief techniques through our seminars.  Most importantly you’ll have a positive environment you can come to every day and be a part of a supportive community of other students also experiencing mental health challenges.  


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