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What Are Bipolar Disorders?

As previously known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings that involve extreme emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression).

It is common to feel sad and hopeless when you are depressed, and you may lose interest in many activities as well. When you feel euphoric, energetic, or unusually irritable, you may have mania or hypomania (a mood disorder less extreme than mania). The effects of mood swings can include sleep, energy, activity, judgment, behavior, and clarity of thought.

It is possible to experience mood swings only occasionally or repeatedly during the course of the year. People typically experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, though some may not.

It is important to follow a treatment plan if you are suffering from bipolar disorder. Although it is a lifelong condition, you can manage your mood swings and other symptoms. The most common treatment for bipolar disorder is medication combined with psychological counseling (therapy).

Bipolar disorder consists of several types. The conditions may include mania, hypomania, or depression. In addition to causing significant distress and difficulty in life, symptoms can also cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior.

Symptoms of Bipolar I Disorder

Manic Episode

In manic episodes, a person is extremely high-spirited or irritable most of the time for most days, is extremely energetic, and exhibits at least three of the following behaviors:

  • Feeling energetic despite less sleep (e.g., sleep deprivation)

  • A faster or more rapid speech rate

  • Rapidly changing ideas or topics while speaking or racing thoughts

  • Distractibility

  • Activity increase or feeling restlessness

  • An increase in risky behavior, such as reckless driving and shopping sprees

  • A feeling of well-being and self-confidence that is exaggerated (euphoria)

It is important for friends and family to understand that the behavior is different from what they are used to seeing from the individual. Also, there must be symptoms that cause disruptions in work, family, and social activities. In order to stay safe, people suffering from manic episodes commonly require hospitalization.

As well as disorganized thinking and false beliefs, people who experience manic episodes sometimes experience hallucinations.

Hypomanic Episode

A hypomanic episode lasts for only four days rather than a week and is characterized by milder manic symptoms. Manic symptoms commonly result in major problems in daily functioning, but hypomanic symptoms do not.

Major Depressive Episode

At least five of the following symptoms must be present over a period of at least two weeks for there to be a major depressive episode (including one of the first two symptoms):

  • An intense sense of sadness or despair

  • A loss of interest in activities once enjoyed by the individual

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness

  • Feeling fatigued

  • A change in sleep patterns

  • Appetite increase or decrease

  • Speech or movement that is sluggish or restless

  • Having difficulty concentrating

  • Having frequent thoughts of suicide or death

Treatment and Management

The symptoms of bipolar disorder usually improve with treatment. In bipolar disorder treatment, medication is the foundation, but many patients benefit from talk therapy (psychotherapy) for learning about their illness and adhering to medications.

The most common type of medication prescribed for bipolar disorder is a mood stabilizer such as lithium, valproic acid, or divalproex sodium. As a result of these medications, brain signaling is believed to be corrected. The ongoing prevention of bipolar disorder is essential due to the recurrence of mood episodes. In order to find what works best for people with bipolar disorder, they may need to try different medications.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) can be helpful in some cases when psychotherapy and medication have not worked. A brief electrical current is applied to the scalp several times during ECT treatment while the patient is under anesthesia, causing a controlled seizure to occur. Brain signaling pathways are believed to be remodeled by ECT-induced seizures.

A person with bipolar disorder may be able to benefit from professional resources, such as mental health advocacy and support groups. This is because it can create serious disruptions in his or her daily life. From these sources, friends and family members can develop coping skills and learn how to participate actively in the treatment process.

Bipolar II Disorder

It is necessary to have had at least one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode in order to be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder (see above). In between episodes, people resume their normal activities. Since hypomania can feel pleasurable and sometimes even boost performance at work or school, people with bipolar II disorder often seek treatment after their first depressive episode.

Bipolar II disorder is frequently associated with other mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders and substance abuse disorders, both of which can exacerbate depression and hypomania symptoms.


Both medication and psychotherapy are used to treat bipolar II. Depending on the specific symptoms, mood stabilizers and antidepressants are commonly prescribed medications. In severe cases of depression, ECT (see above) may be considered if medication is not effective. Treatments are tailored to the needs of each individual.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder involves frequent mood swings, such as hypomania and depression. In contrast to bipolar disorder I or II, cyclothymia is associated with more moderate emotional ups and downs.

Cyclothymic disorder symptoms include the following:

  • Several periods of hypomanic or depressive symptoms for at least two years, but the symptoms do not meet the criteria for being hypomanic or depressive.

  • In the past two years, the symptoms (mood swings) have lasted at least half the time and have never subsided.


Medications and talk therapy can be used to treat cyclothymic disorder. A talk therapy session can provide relief from the stress of mood swings for many people. In order to observe patterns in mood fluctuations, you may find it useful to keep a mood journal. It is possible to start and stop cyclothymia treatment over time.

Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders

An individual with clinically significant abnormal mood elevation who does not meet the diagnostic criteria for bipolar I, II, or cyclothymia is considered to have unspecified or other specified bipolar disorder. Among these are disorders such as bipolar and other disorders induced by alcohol or drugs, or caused by conditions such as Cushing's disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Despite research efforts, bipolar disorder's exact cause remains unclear.

However, they believe there is a strong genetic component (inherited). In general, bipolar disorder is regarded as one of the most heritable psychiatric conditions - more than two-thirds of people who suffer from this disorder have a close biological relative who suffers from it. Even though your biological relative has bipolar disorder, it doesn't guarantee that you will also have it.

Scientists believe the following factors contribute to the development of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar disorder is associated with subtle changes in the size and activation of some brain structures. The condition, however, cannot be diagnosed by brain scans.

  • Traumatic events, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, divorce, or financial difficulties, can trigger manic or depressive episodes. This may explain why stress and trauma play a role in bipolar disorder development.

Bipolar disorder is currently being studied to determine what effect these factors have on its onset, prevention, and treatment.

How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may use a variety of tools to diagnose bipolar disorder, such as:

  • Physical examination.

  • You will be asked about your symptoms, lifetime history, experiences, and family background during the medical history assessment.

  • Testing for other conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, that might be causing your symptoms.

  • Psychiatric evaluation. Psychologists or psychiatrists can perform the evaluation or refer you to a healthcare provider who specializes in mental health.

Mania or hypomania must have occurred at least once to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In order to diagnose bipolar disorder, mental health providers use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Mental health professionals measure how severe the symptoms are during the most severe episodes to determine if you have bipolar disorder.

What Lifestyle Changes Can be Made?

Bipolar disorder symptoms can be worsened by patterns of behavior that are likely to be recommended by your healthcare team. Among these lifestyle changes are:

  • It is important to stop drinking alcohol, including tobacco, and using recreational drugs, since these substances can interfere with medication you may be taking. As well as worsening bipolar disorder, they can trigger mood episodes as well.

  • Record your daily thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: You can track your daily thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help you determine how well your treatment is working and what potential triggers may be causing your episodes of depression or manic behavior.

  • You should maintain a regular sleeping schedule to prevent symptoms of bipolar disorder. Changes in your sleep schedule can even trigger episodes. Sleep at the same times each day and wake up at the same times each day.

  • Bipolar disorder symptoms may be managed through exercise, which improves mood and mental health in general. A common side effect of bipolar disorder medications is weight gain, so exercise may help manage your weight as well.

  • The use of meditation has been shown to improve depression caused by bipolar disorder.

  • It is important to manage stress and keep healthy relationships in order to reduce mood symptoms associated with bipolar disorder. Stress should be managed in a positive way and eliminated whenever possible. The key to achieving this is maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family. Letting go of toxic relationships will help you achieve this.

When to See a Doctor?

Bipolar disorder symptoms often go unnoticed and untreated, despite the fact that their extreme moods disrupt their lives and those of their loved ones.

It may even be enjoyable to experience feelings of euphoria and cycles of increased productivity if you have bipolar disorder. This euphoria is followed by a crash that leaves you depressed, exhausted, and may even put you in financial, legal, or relationship problems.

A mental health professional or doctor should be consulted if you have symptoms of depression or mania. The symptoms of bipolar disorder don't go away by themselves. It is possible to control your symptoms by getting treatment from a mental health professional experienced in bipolar disorder.

When to Get Emergency Help?

People with bipolar disorder often have suicidal thoughts and behaviors. To avoid self-harming thoughts, call 911 or your local emergency number as soon as possible, go to the emergency room, or talk to a trusted family member or friend. You can also call a suicide hotline by dialing 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Whenever a loved one is in danger of suicide or has attempted suicide, make sure someone is with them at all times. Immediately dial 911 or your local emergency number. Alternatively, take the person to the emergency room of the nearest hospital if you feel it is safe.

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