Bipolar disorder might be more stigmatized than any other mental health disorder. The term is also used incorrectly by many and by the media, leading people to think that someone who simply changes mood quickly is “bipolar.” These misconceptions can make life for those with the disorder difficult and even prevent some from getting the help they need.
People who have bipolar disorder can have periods in which they feel overly happy and energized and other periods of feeling very sad, hopeless, and sluggish. In between those periods, they usually feel normal. You can think of the highs and the lows as two “poles” of mood, which is why it’s called “bipolar” disorder.
It is estimated that 2.6 percent of American adults have this disorder, which translates into around 5.7 million people. In other words, two or three people out of 100 have this disorder.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder comes in two forms: bipolar I and bipolar II.
In Bipolar I, patients experience mania that is at least one week in duration and depression that is at least two weeks in duration. In some cases, mental health professionals may give someone a diagnosis of Bipolar I when these episodes are shorter but intense enough to put that person in the hospital.
In Bipolar II, each stage is shorter and the symptoms can be less intense. While it may be less severe, Bipolar II patients still need the same support, compassion and quality of care as those with Bipolar I.
Bipolar Disorder is most frequently treated with a combination of therapy and medication. It can be genetic, and it affects people’s jobs, relationships, and quality of life. However, there is strong evidence that with treatment (such as talk therapy and certain medications), people with bipolar disorder can enjoy full lives. That includes strong relationships, a satisfying job, and having meaningful social connections. Below we will discuss symptoms, causes, and treatment options for bipolar disorder. If you believe that you have these symptoms, please consult a medical professional immediately.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
In bipolar disorder, the dramatic episodes of high and low moods do not follow a set pattern. Someone may feel the same mood state (depressed or manic) several times before switching to the opposite mood. These episodes can happen over a period of weeks, months, and sometimes even years.
- Depressive Symptoms
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low energy levels
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Disordered eating
- Feelings of emptiness and detachment
- Avoidance of favorite activities
- Suicidal thoughts
*If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately, at 1-800-273-8255. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Excessive energy levels
- Feelings of extreme elation
- Irritability with others
- Racing thoughts
- Excessive risk taking
The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as:
- Genetics. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing bipolar disorder.
- Biological differences. People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
- Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include:
- Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder
- Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Frequently Asked Questions FAQ(s)
How are you tested for bipolar?
People with bipolar disorder are often given psychological and medical tests when they start to display signs of bipolar disorder. Depending on the type of bipolar symptoms present, a medical or mental health professional will diagnose bipolar disorder as bipolar I disorder or one of the other three categories of mental illnesses that involve bipolar episodes. There are different approaches for treating bipolar disorder based on the type you have been diagnosed with.
What triggers bipolar?
Many factors can trigger symptoms of bipolar disorder. These factors include a genetic predisposition to mental health issues, environmental factors, and health factors (including chemical imbalances). Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be triggered by any or all of these factors. This is one of the reasons living with bipolar can feel confusing for people with bipolar disorder and their families.
What is the definition of a bipolar person?
People with bipolar disorder often struggle with the stigma of coping with bipolar disorder. Many people who develop bipolar disorder are considered “violent,” “aggressive,” or “unruly.” In fact, researchers have learned by studying the disorder that adults with bipolar disorder are more prone to self-harm than harm towards others.
Should you argue with a bipolar person?
Aggressiveness is one of the many symptoms of bipolar disorder. Keeping this in mind, it’s almost pointless to argue with someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The aggression that people with bipolar disorder display — is often a result of bipolar disorder symptoms and shouldn’t be perceived as a personal attack.
What is a person with bipolar like?
People with bipolar disorder have periods of normalcy coupled with periods of elation and depression. Adults with bipolar disorder can carry on normal lives by learning to manage their condition with a combination of bipolar medications, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.
How do you help a person with bipolar?
You should always seek professional advice from an expert trained in the treatment bipolar disorder. Trying to help a person with bipolar disorder without the help of a licensed professional is a difficult task. It can cause more harm than good.