What is Bipolar Disorder anyway?


“Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.

3d Bipolar disorder background

3d Bipolar disorder background

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include:

  • A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
  • Being overly restless
  • Sleeping little or not being tired
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors

Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:

  • An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.”

National Institute of Mental Health

More symptoms that people may experience

Mood: anger, apathy, apprehension, euphoria, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, inability to feel pleasure, loss of interest, mood swings, sadness, or elevated mood
Cognitive: delusion, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, slowness in activity and thought, unwanted thoughts, or false belief of superiority
Behavioral: aggression, agitation, crying, excess desire for sex, hyperactivity, impulsivity, irritability, risky behavior, or self-harm
Psychological: agitated depression, anxiety, depression, manic episode, or paranoia
Sleep: difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: fatigue, rapid and frenzied speaking, or restlessness

Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Also see: Say no to suicide. Getting help with your problems and concerns

Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy)

What causes Bipolar Disorder?

“The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as:

  • 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.
  • Neurotransmitters. An imbalance in naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters seems to play a significant role in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders.
  • Inherited traits. 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.”

— mayoclinic.org

Want to read a personal experience?

Bipolar Disorder: my personal experience and what it is for me