Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar Disorder – A Beginners Guide

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that causes intense mood swings. It has various types, causes, signs, and symptoms, but with proper treatment, one can get their symptoms under control and live life to the fullest.

Bipolar disorder can negatively impact a person’s everyday life, but the effect varies from person to person. Many people with this condition live full lives with appropriate support and treatment.

This blog discusses everything that one should be aware of bipolar disorder, such as its symptoms, causes, treatment options, types, etc.

Bipolar Disorder – An Overview

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, is a mental condition that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, activity levels, concentration, and energy. These shifts can make it difficult to carry out everyday tasks.  

Around 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6% of the U.S. population, are affected by Bipolar Disorder every year (age 18 and older), according to the National Institute of Mental Health [1].

How Common Is Bipolar Disorder?

  • Bipolar disorder is one of the top three causes of hospitalization at the age of 15-44, according to The World Health Organization. 
  • It is estimated that about 5% of the world’s population is on the bipolar spectrum, and only 1-2% are diagnosed. 
  • More than 90% of people who experience a single manic episode will have another because bipolar disorder is a recurring illness.

What Are The Types Of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a condition that impacts your mental health drastically. Below are the four types of Bipolar Disorder –

Bipolar I: 

It is the most common type of Bipolar Disorder of the four types. It is characterized by one or more manic episodes, with or without depression. The mania must be serious enough that hospitalization is required and can last a week or more. 

Bipolar II: 

This type of Bipolar Disorder is characterized by having both depressive and manic episodes. The mania that is experienced in this type of Bipolar Disorder is usually less serious than the mania experienced in Bipolar I. You experience a major episode of depression when you’ve bipolar II, either before or after you’ve had a manic break.

Cyclothymic disorder:

Cyclothamia or Cyclothymic disorder generally involves mood swings or shifts between depressive or hypomanic that persist for more than two years. The mania and depressive episodes do not meet the criteria for diagnosis of bipolar disorder episodes. There may be duration or periods of normal mood as well, but those periods last less than eight weeks. 

Other types: 

People with this type of disorder experience symptoms that do not come under the above-mentioned categories, and it is considered type IV or “other.”  The symptoms may arise from various factors, such as alcohol or drug use or an underlying medical condition [2]. 

Causes Of Bipolar Disorder

So, what causes Bipolar Disorder? Let’s find out the risk factors for Bipolar Disorder –

Genetic Factors

The data from the Centre for Genetics Education indicate that if a family member ( such as a sibling or parent) has bipolar disorder, then a person is more likely to develop the condition.

Brain Chemicals

It’s believed that individuals with Bipolar Disorder have an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) that are responsible for regulating behavior and mood. 

Environmental factors

There are a number of environmental triggers that may lead to Bipolar Disorder. Such as:

Alcohol, medications, drug use – 

Certain substances can cause an individual to experience symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. For example, certain medicines, alcohol, and recreational drugs can cause mania, depression, and hypomanic episodes, and these mimic the symptoms associated with different types of Bipolar Disorder. 

Going through stressful events

A stressful life event or situation can also trigger the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Some examples of stressful triggers include –

  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
  • The breakdown of a relationship.
  • Death of a close family member or loved one. 

Bipolar depression can also be triggered by –

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Physical illness.
  • Overwhelming problems in everyday life. 

Substance Abuse Disorder 

Some researchers suggest that substance abuse can increase the risk of developing Bipolar Disorder. A study, namely Substance Abuse Treatment Prevention and Policy, found that 61% of people with bipolar I had a history of alcohol or drug use, and in those with bipolar II, the figure was 48% [3].

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder?

The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder vary between individuals. For some people, an episode can last for a long period of time (several months to years), whereas some may experience “highs” and “lows” at the same time or in quick succession.

Mania or hypomania 

Mania and hypomania are elevated moods. However, mania is more intense than hypomania. Symptoms include –

  • Feeling weird.
  • Missing work or school.
  • Feeling able to do anything.
  • Engaging in risky behavior.
  • Increased libido.
  • Feeling euphoric or exhilarated.
  • Underperforming at work or school.
  • Sleeping little but not feeling exhausted or tired.
  • Impaired judgment.
  • A sense of boredom or distraction.
  • Being sociable and forthcoming, sometimes aggressively.
  • Talking a lot and rapidly.
  • Denying or not realizing anything is wrong.
  • Having racing thoughts.
  • Skipping from one topic to another in conversation.

Depressive Symptoms 

During an episode of bipolar depression, a person may experience the following symptoms. 

  • Extreme sadness
  • Sleeping problems and insomnia
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Extreme fatigue, tiredness, and listlessness
  • Sensitivity to smells, noises, and other things that others may not notice.
  • An inability to face going to work or school, leading to underperformance
  • Anxiety about minor issues
  • A sense of guilt, which may be misplaced
  • Eating more or eating less
  • Inability to enjoy activities or interests that usually give pleasure.


If a “low” or “high” episode is very severe, the individual may experience psychosis. They may have trouble differentiating between reality and fantasy.

Some of the symptoms of psychosis, according to the International Bipolar Foundation, are hallucinations and delusion [4]. 

In some severe situations, the individual may think about ending their life.

Disclaimer –

The symptoms of bipolar disorder in men and women are similar. Thus, the above-mentioned conditions (mania and depression signs) may be experienced by everyone, irrespective of their gender. 

Who Does Bipolar Disorder Affect?

Bipolar depression can affect people irrespective of their age and gender. 

The average age of onset is 25 years. But in rare cases, it can affect people as early as childhood or in their late 40s or 50s. 

The occurrence of bipolar disorder is higher in females (3.3%) than in males (2.6%) in adolescents. 

Diagnosis For Bipolar Disorder

To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one should experience at least one episode of hypomania or mania. It is diagnosed through a physical examination conducted through lab tests.  

Some of the ways to diagnose bipolar disorder are listed below. 

Physical exam – 

Your doctors may do a lab test to determine any medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

Mood charting –

Your doctor may ask you to keep a daily record of your sleep patterns, mood, or other factors that could help with diagnosis.

Physical assessment-

Your primary healthcare provider may refer you to a psychiatrist, who will talk to you about your feelings, behavior, and thought patterns. You may also be asked to fill out a psychological questionnaire or self-assessment.

Criteria for bipolar disorder – 

Your psychiatrist may compare the symptoms of bipolar disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.  

Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

Treatment mainly aims to stabilize the individual’s mood and reduce the symptoms. The goal is to help the person function effectively in everyday life. 

Treatment includes a combination of 

  • Medication.
  • Counseling.
  • Physical intervention.

Medications –

Most psychiatrists often prescribe medicines to balance your moods right away. The medications for Bipolar disorder come under various categories, such as mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and antipsychotics. 

Psychotherapy and Counseling-

Therapy is crucial for dealing with bipolar disorder and the problems or issues that it has caused in your life. Working with a therapist can help you to learn how to cope with uncomfortable or difficult feelings, manage stress, repair your relationships, and regulate your mood. 


In severe cases, doctors may recommend hospitalization if you have suicidal tendencies or become detached from reality. Getting treatment at a hospital can help you to calm and stabilize your mood, whether you’re having a major or manic depressive episode.

How To Cope With Bipolar Disorder?

Below are some proven strategies that may help to cope with Bipolar Disorder – 

Avoid alcohol and drugs – 

These can make our moods worse, and if you’re on medication, alcohol and drugs can be dangerous since they can impact the effectiveness of the medicines.

Take your medicines as prescribed by your psychiatrist

It is essential to take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor because abrupt changes to your medications can have serious negative impacts, including new mood episodes.

Be physically active 

Physical workout has proven to help improve mood and reduce the risk of future mood changes or episodes. Since it can be hard to get started, therefore, do what you can easily manage right now. Even a 10 minutes walk daily can have a positive effect on your mood. 

Stick to a sleep schedule 

Sleep disturbances can trigger the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Sticking to a consistent bedtime routine is proven to keep mood episodes at bay.

Reduce stress

Stress is a major risk factor for depressive and manic episodes in individuals with bipolar disorder. Learning how to manage it can help you to stay physically, behaviorally, and emotionally safe.

Grow your support system 

Life with bipolar disorder can be difficult therefore, surround yourself with people who care for you and want to help you. 

Bipolar Disorder – The Bottom Line

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that impacts many aspects of a person’s life. It is treatable, but without treatment, bipolar disorder can get worse.

Below are some of the key points of the blog –

  • Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health illness that can cause unusual mood swings ranging from extreme highs (manic episodes or mania) to extreme lows ( depressive episodes or depression).
  • There are four types of Bipolar disorder, namely bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, and other types. 
  • Bipolar disorder is caused due to genetic factors, environmental factors, and due to imbalances in brain chemicals. 
  • Bipolar disorder is diagnosed by physical exam, mood charting, etc., and there are various treatment options available such as medication and counseling, among others.


What is the main cause of Bipolar Disorder?

Genetic features are the most common cause of Bipolar Disorder.

Can Bipolar Disorder be cured?

No, Bipolar Disorder cannot be cured, but with proper treatment, people can manage its symptoms and live a full life.

Which is the most common type of Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar I is the most common type of Bipolar Disorder.

What are the treatment options available for Bipolar Disorder?

The treatment options available for Bipolar Disorder are medication, psychotherapy, counseling, and hospitalization.

How can one prevent Bipolar Disorder?

Getting treatment at the earliest sign of the condition can help prevent Bipolar Disorder.

At what age does Bipolar start?

Bipolar disorder occurs at any age and often develops at the age of 15 and 19 and rarely develops after the age of 40.

How is Bipolar Disorder diagnosed?

Bipolar Disorder is diagnosed by performing a physical exam, mood charting, and physical assessment and may compare the symptoms of bipolar disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

What is the most effective treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

A combination of medicine and psychotherapy is the most effective treatment for Bipolar Disorder.


  1. Bipolar Disorder Statistics, dbsalliance

  2. Four types of Bipolar Disorder, bostonmindcare

  3. The prevalence and significance of substance use disorders in bipolar type I and II disorder, NCBI

  4. What to know about bipolar disorder, medicalnewstoday

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