Updated: Dec 2, 2021
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorders are mental illnesses in which a person goes from feeling extreme highs to extreme lows, hence the name bipolar, or two poles. People with bipolar experience both manic and depressive episodes. These changes in mood can have a significant impact on one’s life. It is thought to impact around 1.2 million Americans.
There are three main types of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar 1- someone with Bipolar will have manic episodes as well as depressive episodes. The manic episodes typically last for at least a week, and the depressive episodes last at least 2 weeks.
Bipolar 2- People diagnosed with bipolar 2 experience hypo-manic episodes, as well as episodes of depression. Hypo-manic episodes
Cyclothymic disorder/cyclothymia- a period of at least 2 years in adults, and a year for children, where they experience hypo-manic and depressive symptoms, but do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar 1 or 2.
Bipolar is oftentimes diagnosed during teenage years, but can be diagnosed in young children and adults as well.
Symptoms, manic episodes, and depressive episodes:
A manic episode is a period of usually high energy and elevated mood. People experiencing a manic episode may have a decreased need for sleep, talk a lot or talk really fast, or feel like they have a lot of racing thoughts. They may become more impulsive, make unrealistic plans, or feel unusually happy. During a manic episode people may experience restlessness, poor concentration, poor judgement, and are more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
A depressive episode involves symptoms of low mood, talking slowly, experiencing changes in sleeping and eating habits, and feeling sad or empty. People experiencing depressive episodes may also cry a lot, lose interest in activities, have poor concentration, or feel hopeless, among other things.
Other symptoms of bipolar disorders include psychosis, thoughts of death or suicidality, and other symptoms relating to one’s judgement, mood, thinking, and behavior.
Subsequently, people with bipolar disorders may face challenges at work, school, in social situations including maintaining friendships, and other relationships.
What are the causes and risk factors?
Although the exact cause is not known, it is known that people are more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar if they have an immediate family member with the condition.
It is also thought that people with bipolar have biological differences in their brains.
Having a family member with bipolar, going through a period of high stress, and drug/alcohol abuse all increase the risk of bipolar. Certain other health conditions can increase the risk of bipolar as well.
What is the treatment?
Medications can be a main source of treatment for those with bipolar disorder. Common medications used fall into the categories of mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, and antidepressants.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy is also used.
Other things that can help include eating healthy, keeping a journal, exercising, attending proper medical appointments, and taking your medication.
With the proper treatment, people with bipolar are better able to manage their mood swings.
Bipolar and other conditions can cause suicidal thoughts or actions. If you or someone you know is in danger talk to a trusted adult or utilize one of these supports