Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a condition that affects the mental health of a person causing extreme mood switches between emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). Also referred to as manic depression, this illness is a lifelong condition that can be managed through continuous counseling and medication.

Name: Bipolar Disorder

Cause: Genetics and biological differences

Symptoms: Depression, restlessness, hypomania, mania

Treatment: Continued medication and treatment

Diagnosis: Psychiatric assessment and physical exam

A patient often struggles between two extreme moods and becomes complacent, hopeless and loses interest in worldly affairs. These constant changes often affect the sleep pattern, bodily functions and mental health of a person causing the patient to have poor judgment and easily irritable behavior.

Patients suffering from bipolar disorder may face events of depression and hypomania rarely or too frequently depending on their course of treatment and type of disorder.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are generally treated with medications, support group session, psychological counseling and in rare cases hospitalization.

Types of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar disorder is generally segregated into 4 major categories but the implication of this illness varies from person to person. There are multiple types of bipolar and related mental disorders. They often include depression, mania or hypomania. Symptoms of different kinds of illness may cause a patient to exhibit uncertain changes in mood and behavior patterns, causing substantial stress and incompetence in life. The 4 major types of bipolar disorder implications are-

Bipolar I disorder

When a patient has suffered from at least one incident of mania, he is said to be suffering from bipolar I disorder. Mania is essentially a situation of extreme happiness and characterized by heightened excitement and hyperactivity. If left unattended and untreated, this state may lead to the hypomanic occurrence and clinical depression. It may also result in psychosis. People with psychosis have a tendency to have an emotional impairment and are often seen to be spaced out of reality.

Bipolar II disorder

This type of bipolar disorder is a less severe type of the illness. It is generally characterized by depression and hypomanic occurrences. Patients with bipolar II disorder have undergone at less one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode. Patients show symptoms of extreme sadness or hopelessness as well as persistently irritable and elevated mood. Patients of this illness do not have any history of a manic occurrence.

Cyclothymic disorder

A mellow form of bipolar disorder is often referred to as a Cyclothymic disorder. This type of illness is characterized by the constant fluctuation of moods of a patient. The patient suffers from a shift between mild depressive occurrence and hypomania. This condition is usually treated with counseling and rarely requires the use of any medicines.

Others- Other types of the disorder generally include mental disorders caused due to increased dependency on addictives such as drugs and alcohol. Medical conditions such as stroke, sclerosis or Cushing’s disease may also lead to bipolar disorder.

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Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood switches between hypomania and depression .

Symptoms of Hypomania are-

-  Decreased need for sleep

-  An exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)

-  Unusually jumpy, upbeat or wired

-  Heightened activity, energy or agitation

-  Unusual talkativeness

-  Poor decision-making

-  Distractibility

-  Racing thoughts

Common symptoms of depression are-

-  Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless or tearful (in children and teens, a depressed mood can appear as irritability)

-  Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide

-  Significant weight loss

-  Marked loss of interest or feeling no pleasure in all — or almost all — activities

-  Fatigue or loss of energy

-  Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness

-  Either insomnia or sleeping too much

-  Either restlessness or slowed behavior

-  Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

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Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar disorder is a condition that is more internal and thus needs a medical professional to identify the signs and symptoms and provide a diagnosis. Generally, a general physician will be able to diagnose if a person is showing any traits directing towards having bipolar disorder easily. Post-diagnosis, a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, will be better equipped to detect the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The various commonly used ways of diagnosis are-

- Physical exam: The doctor conducts a physical examination in order to ascertain any medical illnesses that may be causing the evident signs and symptoms. Generally, the doctor also prescribes a few lab tests in order to be sure of his/ her diagnosis or to rule out any other medical condition.

- Psychiatric assessment: A general physician often advises a patient to consult a mental health expert such as a psychiatrist in order to fully understand the state of mind of the patient and ascertain his behavior patterns. The patient may also be asked to fill out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire to get a better understanding of his condition and emotional state.

- Mood Charting: Patients diagnosed with a bipolar disorder are often asked to keep a daily track of their sleeping patterns, lifestyle choices, mood swings, emotional outbursts and other factors which could be helpful in determining the appropriate course of treatment to cure the illness.

- Criteria for bipolar disorder: The psychiatrist or any other mental health professional may compare the signs and symptoms of the patient with the underlying criteria for bipolar and mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

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What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder has not been ascertained by medical science as of now. Many environmental, as well as genetic factors, are suspected to have an effect on the mental health of a person.

The various probable causes of bipolar disorder are-

- Genetics- Bipolar disorder is seen to run in the genes and has a possibility of being passed down from the gene pool to the successors.

Research is being conducted on ascertaining the exact gene element which is responsible for transmitting the traits of a bipolar disorder.

- Neurochemical elements- It has been noted that patients with bipolar disorder have a dysfunction in a specific brain area which affects the conventional neurotransmissions of the brain. The brain activity is altered according to various stressors. Medical science is trying to find out the exact functionality of this illness in order to find an appropriate course of treatment.

Prevention from Bipolar Disorder:

As of now, there are no measures that can be taken to avoid the occurrence of a bipolar disorder. The only possible steps that can be taken are to access the disorder on time and take proper steps in order to avoid the situation from worsening. Mental health should be taken very seriously and getting treatment at the earliest often helps in controlling the probable adversities of this illness.

It is advisable to take the following steps as soon as a patient has been diagnosed with having any type of bipolar disorder.

- Looking for the warning signs and taking them seriously- Early detection is often a blessing in the case of bipolar disorder. This provides the patient a chance to control the illness from getting worse. The main factors to ascertain are the stressors that cause an individual to have events of hypomania and depression. Caution should be exercised to avoid the occurrences of these events or how the individual reacts to these events.

- Getting help from family members- Members of the family are people who are most reliable in such situations. They are able to access and help manage the stressors and keep the patient calm.

- Restricting the use of alcohol and drugs – Consumption of alcohol or use of recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy etc has the ability to cause worsening of the situation and causing harm to the patient’s health.

- Consuming the prescribed medication dedicatedly- the medication must be taken in the frequency and for the tenure directed by the doctor. Under no circumstances should the patient alter or stop the medicine dosage without the doctor’s consent. Stopping the medicine use without the advice of the doctor may lead to the occurrence of withdrawal symptoms or worsening of the illness.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment:

The ideal course of treatment is guided by a medical expert who is a specialist in dealing with issues pertaining to mental health. Psychiatrists are often aptly able to diagnose and treat bipolar and other related disorders. Bipolar disorder does not have a proper cure and thus, there are no permanent treatments to resolve the illness. All the available treatments are used to subside the symptoms and eliminate the chances of occurrence of side effects relating to the illness.

Treatment may vary as it is dependent on the symptoms.

- Medicines- A psychiatrist usually prescribes medicines in order to control the present symptoms immediately.

- Continuous treatment- As it has been medically established that bipolar disorder is not curable, it requires lifelong treatment with medications or counseling.

- Day treatment programs- The doctor usually recommends a day treatment program. These programs provide the required support and counseling in order to keep the symptoms under control and prevent a person from relapsing.

- Substance abuse treatment- Patients dealing with problems associated with drugs or alcohol are often put in treatment to cure and manage substance abuse. Refraining from addictives is a step towards a better life for people living with bipolar disorder.

- Hospitalization- Patients having extreme mood swings and tendencies to cause self-harm are prescribed to get psychiatric treatment at a mental institution.


In case of severe stages of bipolar disorder, the doctor may prescribe the patient with a course of medication that has the ability to help to subside the symptoms as well as preventing the worsening of the illness. There are a multiple number of medicines available to treat a bipolar disorder. The main determinant of the choice of medication is the type of bipolar disorder and its evident symptoms. The popular kinds of prescribed medication are-

- Mood stabilizers: This type of medication is given in order to control the occurrence of manic or hypomanic events. A few examples of commonly prescribed mood stabilizers are carbamazepine (Tegretol, Equetro), valproic acid (Depakene), lamotrigine (Lamictal), divalproex sodium (Depakote) and lithium (Lithobid).

-  Antipsychotics these drugs are prescribed along with a mood stabilizer in order to control the symptoms of mania or depression or mania. A few commonly prescribed medicines are- olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), quetiapine (Seroquel), aripiprazole (Abilify), ziprasidone (Geodon), lurasidone (Latuda) or asenapine (Saphris).

- Antidepressants- This medication is prescribed specifically to combat the signs and symptoms associated with depression. This type of medication may lead to a manic or hypomanic event. To manage this probable side effect, this drug is often prescribed along with a mood stabilizer.

- Antidepressant-antipsychotic- This medication is a combination of an antipsychotic and an antidepressant. It acts as a mood stabilizer as well as an aid to cure depression.

- Anti-anxiety medications- These are temporary medications prescribed for a short time to control pangs of anxiety and help in getting a good night’s sleep.

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Bipolar Disorder Risk Factors:

Factors that make an individual more susceptible to the risk of having bipolar disorder are mentioned below-

- Genetics- Bipolar disorder has the tendency to be transmitted in the genes.

Having a family member who has bipolar disorder puts a person at a risk of being susceptible to acquiring the illness.

- Stressors- Stressors are major instances which have the ability to cause heightened emotional outburst such as the death of a family member, accident, peer pressure, work pressure etc. These instances may cause a person to develop a bipolar disorder.

- Substance abuse- increased dependency on addictives such as drugs or alcohol


If left untreated or not treated properly, a bipolar disorder has the ability to result in disastrous problems that may affect all aspects of the patient’s life. A few of the probable complications that may arise as a result of an untreated or ignored bipolar disorder are-

-  Instances of substance abuse such as alcoholism or drug dependency

-  Suicidal tendencies

-  Attempted suicides

-  Financial instability

-  Constant mental turmoil

-  Legal complications arising due to heightened outbursts

-  Damaged personal as well as professional relationships

-  Poor academic or work performance

It must be noted that having bipolar disorder, puts a patient in the risk zone of having a lot of other illnesses. A few of the co-occurring conditions to vary of are-

-  Alcohol and drug dependency

-  Physical adversities like heart ailments, thyroid, headaches or obesity

-  Anxiety disorder

-  Eating disorder

-  Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Common Myths About Bipolar Disorder:

Myth #1: Everyone with bipolar disorder is unreliable and unpredictable.

Fact- This is the most common myth associated with the patients with bipolar disorder. Although it is possible that some patients with bipolar disorder behave in a manner that is unpredictable but classifying all the patients in the same category is unjust.

Myth #2: Patients with bipolar disorder are unable to have a meaningful and fulfilled life.

Fact- People generally assume that patients with bipolar disorder are too unpredictable and thus are unfit for starting and sustaining a job or family or contributing to the society. This is a completely baseless assumption. With the advancement in healthcare medication and technology, it is possible for patients to lead a normal life and attain all their life goals without any hindrance.

Myth #3: Bipolar disorder is an easy situation to get over.

Fact- The main determinant contributing to getting over the probable adversities caused by bipolar disorder is a proper course of medication and treatment. If left unattended, bipolar disorder can prove to be a serious issue and could be very dangerous and even life-threatening.

Myth #4: Moods swings means bipolar disorder.

Fact- Happiness, and sadness are normal human emotions. Switching between the two is a normal human practice. Bipolar disorder is a far more extreme switching between the two emotions causing bouts of mania and depressions in the patient which could have serious implications on the body.

Myth #5: Bipolar disorder is just an excuse for erratic behavior.

Fact- Erratic behavior is just a symptom of bipolar disorder. It is a medically recognized illness which should not be seen as an excuse. People having bipolar disorder are already having a hard time dealing with day to day functionalities and should not be mocked for their behavior or outbursts.

Myth #6: Bipolar disorder is a rare illness.

Fact- About 1.1 billion people in the world are suffering from bipolar disorder. It can happen to anyone irrespective of their geographical location, sex, age or any other determinant.

Myth #7: Bipolar disorder affects only the mood.

Fact- A b ipolar disorder affects a person on many levels. Not only does this illness affect a person's mood, but also the person's, self-esteem, health, sleep, eating habits, concentration, reasoning ability, energy, sex drive, and interpersonal relationships.

Myth #8: Patients with bipolar disorder experience depression and mania all the time.

Fact- Most patients with bipolar disorder lead a normal life and do not experience any noticeable side effects. With proper treatment and medication, most patients are able to recover from this illness.

Myth #9: Patients with bipolar disorder have to rely on only medication for treatment.

Fact- Although taking regular medication is helpful in treating the symptoms relating to the illness, leading a healthy lifestyle, avoiding alcohol and drugs, having a good sleep cycle, exercising and coping with stress positively are other measures that must be taken by patients.

Myth #10: People could control their bipolar disorder with more willpower and effort.

Fact- Willpower and effort have nothing to do with curing an illness. Medical assistance is quintessential in curing the illness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bipolar Disorder:

1) What is the difference between bipolar disorder and depression?

Ans: The major difference between bipolar disorder and depression is the occurrence of manic instances. Only having depression does not contribute to identifying a person as a patient with bipolar disorder. It must be noted that only one manic occurrence is enough to deem a person as a patient with bipolar disorder.

2) If a person is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, will he be on medication for the rest of his life?

Ans: No. Bipolar disorder is not a lifelong illness. With the right kind of treatment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, staying away from alcohol and other addictive substances and taking proper medical assistance and medication helps in curing the disorder. This entails a patient to lead a normal life without any emotional outbursts, mania or depression.

3) How can lifestyle affect bipolar disorder?

Ans: Consistent lack of routine and sleep cycle often acts as a trigger for patients to have an emotional outbreak. Following a proper routine and having a good sleep cycle, helps in keeping the patient of bipolar disorder well.

4) Is there a physical test to show if I have inherited or may have bipolar disorder?

Ans: No. As of the present, there is no physical exam that can be conducted to infer whether or not a person may inherit or be at a risk of having bipolar disorder.

5) Do all patients with bipolar disorder have similar behavior?

Ans: Each patient of bipolar disorder displays different signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. The behavior patterns are also affected by their health, lifestyle and the course of treatment being prescribed to them.

6) What are the major causes of bipolar disorder?

Ans: Biological differences and genetics are the main causes of bipolar disorder. Other than this, substance abuse, poor lifestyle, bad sleeping habits, relationship, and family problems are also determinants of a bipolar disorder.

7) What kind of doctor should I consult if I think I have bipolar disorder?

Ans: A general physician will be able to easily diagnose if you show any traits directing towards having bipolar disorder. Post-diagnosis, a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, will be better equipped to detect the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder. He would have a better understanding and knowledge of the latest treatments and medicines.

8) People of which age group are at a higher risk of having a bipolar disorder?

Ans: The first signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder typically occur in the late teenage years or early 20s. It is often seen that the first signs are often easily ignored because they are not very evident.

9) Are women more likely to be affected by bipolar disorder than men?

Ans: No. the rate of females and males being affected by the disorder are almost in sync. Although it must be noted that females have a higher tendency of developing a bipolar disorder than men because of hormonal imbalance.

10) Can substance abuse cause bipolar disorder?

Ans: Yes. Drinking alcohol in excess or substance abuse is also a contributing attribute to having a bipolar disorder. People having the illness are often advised to stay away from addictive substances and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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Last updated on : 25-10-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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