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Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood changes. These include very high moments, called manic episodes, and very low times, known as depressive episodes. These changes can make daily life, relationships, and work or school hard to handle. In this article, we’ll talk about what bipolar disorder is, its symptoms, types, how it’s diagnosed, treated and its possible causes and complications.

Many people with bipolar disorder can live full, satisfying lives by managing it well. This involves taking prescribed medicine, going to therapy, and making lifestyle changes. It’s important to get professional help for treatment to be effective. Understanding this condition is key to managing it.

Key Takeaways

  • Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings between mania and depression.
  • Symptoms of mania include feeling very happy, talking quickly, and engaging in risky behaviours, while depression involves feelings of sadness, hopelessness and lack of energy.
  • There are several types of bipolar disorder, including bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.
  • Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s and can be treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
  • Genetics, biological factors, and environmental triggers may contribute to the development of bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Definition and Overview

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental health issue. It causes a person to have strong and extreme mood changes. These changes can really affect how they sleep, their energy, thinking, and behaviour. It’s a condition that lasts a lifetime. But, with the right care and support, people can handle their symptoms and live well.

This disorder brings times of feeling very high (mania or hypomania) and very low (depressive episodes). In Bipolar I, there’s at least one week of intense mania. Bipolar II includes episodes of depression and hypomania. Cyclothymia is less severe, with mood swings not as extreme as full hypomanic or depressive states.

Bipolar I and II are the most known kinds of bipolar disorder. Those with Bipolar I might not have depressive episodes; it’s not so for Bipolar II. People often think Bipolar II’s depressive episodes are more common, making it harder to manage long term.

An accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder needs a detailed check into a person’s medical history and symptoms. There is no direct blood test for this. But, there are effective treatments. Medication and therapy together can help lots in managing symptoms and improving life as a whole.

“Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing management, but with the right support and treatment, individuals can lead fulfilling lives.”

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Manic and Depressive Episodes

Bipolar disorder causes people to swing between extreme moods. They go from a very happy and energetic state to a very sad and low one. Manic episodes bring high energy, joy, and a need to do things quickly. Along with this, impulsivity and being easily agitated are common. Depressive episodes, on the other hand, feel like a deep hole. They bring feelings of being empty, low self-worth, and sometimes thoughts of ending life. In severe cases, people might see or believe things that aren’t real.

The intensity and length of these mood changes vary. In bipolar I, people usually have very strong manic phases lasting weeks. These can continue for months if not treated. The low depressive times might last even longer. With bipolar II, there are more ups and downs but at a less intense level.

In some cases, people might switch moods very quickly, even several times in one year. This is called rapid cycling. There is also a milder type called cyclothymia. It means having ongoing but less extreme mood changes for at least a couple of years.

Bipolar disorder deeply affects how individuals interact, work, and feel about life. It’s crucial for those with it to get help from professionals and stick to their care plans. Doing so helps control the symptoms to enjoy a better life.

Manic Episodes Depressive Episodes
  • Increased energy and excitement
  • Impulsive and risky behaviour
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts
  • Feelings of euphoria and grandiosity
  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts

Genes and family history can raise the risk of developing bipolar disorder. Stressful events like abusive relationships or money problems can also play a part.

“Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing management, but with the right treatment and support, individuals can lead fulfilling and productive lives.”

For effective treatment, a mix of drugs and talking therapies is common. By teaming up with health professionals, those with bipolar disorder can get better and enjoy life more.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health issue with several different types. It’s key to recognise these types for a correct diagnosis and effective management of the condition long-term.

The main types are bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Bipolar I includes severe mania needing hospital care for over a week. On the other hand, bipolar II shifts between hypomanic and depressive phases without full mania.

Cyclothymic is marked by cycles of hypomanic and depressive states over more than two years. It can sometimes progress to bipolar I or II.

There’s also a type called “bipolar disorder not otherwise specified,” for atypical symptoms that still need treatment.

Bipolar I is the most common subtype. 

Support and treatment can help people with all types of bipolar disorder. With the right help, they can live full lives and reduce the condition’s effects.

To sum up, there are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic. Knowing about these types helps healthcare workers offer the best care for those with bipolar disorder.

Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

Criteria and Evaluation

Diagnosing bipolar disorder needs a deep look by a mental health expert. They use the DSM-5-TR guide to check symptoms. This helps decide if someone has bipolar disorder.

First, a doctor will check for physical problems causing the symptoms. They might do blood tests. This can show if there’s a physical cause behind the symptoms.

Diagnosing bipolar disorder is tricky. It shows some signs like depression or schizophrenia. Doctors look at how often and how strong mood changes are to tell it apart.

People often get diagnosed before 25, but it can happen later. It seems to run in families. Also, bipolar I has more intense highs than bipolar II.

Telling if someone’s depression is from bipolar disorder or not is tough. Treating depression with some medicines might make bipolar symptoms worse.

Doctors do a lot to get the right diagnosis. They talk, ask questions, and watch how someone acts over time.

  1. About 2% of the UK has bipolar disorder.
  2. 56% of UK people with bipolar have not been diagnosed.
  3. It takes about 9.5 years to get a correct diagnosis after seeking help.
  4. The wait for diagnosis affects about 60% of people’s lives a lot.
  5. Nearly 1 in 5 think their first manic episode came from antidepressants.
  6. Doctors sometimes mistake bipolar for depression at first.
  7. Not enough mental health help leads to late diagnoses.
  8. Getting a diagnosis helps 84% of people feel better or much better.
  9. 81% say learning they have bipolar explains past actions.
Diagnostic Criteria Description
Manic Episodes Periods of elevated mood, increased energy, and decreased need for sleep, accompanied by impulsive or reckless behaviour.
Depressive Episodes Periods of low mood, loss of interest, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, and changes in sleep, appetite, and energy levels.
Bipolar Disorder I Characterised by severe manic episodes that last at least 7 days, often accompanied by depressive episodes.
Bipolar Disorder II Characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes and less severe hypomanic episodes (milder than full-blown manic episodes).

A correct diagnosis is vital for treating and supporting those with bipolar disorder. It’s hard but crucial for good life management.

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

The first goals in treating bipolar disorder are to keep mood stable and reduce symptoms’ force. This is often a mix of medicine, talking therapies like CBT, and ways we help ourselves. Many who have bipolar disorder find a mix of these methods helps them best.

Lithium and lamotrigine are key in managing bipolar disorder. In the UK, lithium is the top medicine for it. People on lithium need blood tests every 3 months to check the levels are safe. Sometimes, antipsychotic drugs or antidepressants are added, but not for quick mood changes.

Therapies like CBT help folks learn to handle stress and spot signs of mood changes early. Along with CBT, learning more about bipolar disorder through psychoeducation is very useful. Hospital care might be needed when symptoms are very severe.

Regular sleep, exercise, and staying off substances like alcohol and drugs are key ways to look after yourself. If you’re pregnant, talking about medicine risks with your doctors is vital. For pregnant people with bipolar disorder, a treatment plan involving different healthcare experts is advised.

The main treatment for bipolar disorder is a mix of medicine, talking therapies, and everyday health choices. It’s important to keep working closely with healthcare teams and stick to your plan.

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood. Scientists think it’s a mix of your genes, how your body works, and the world around you. This condition usually starts when someone is about 25 years old. But, signs can show up when people are older teenagers or in their early twenties. It affects both men and women the same.

Your genes play a big part in getting bipolar disorder. If a child’s parent or sibling has it, their chance of getting it is higher. The risk can be between 10% and 50% depending on how many family members have the condition. Surprisingly, if one twin has bipolar disorder, the other twin’s risk of having it too is between 40% and 70%.

Problems with neurotransmitters and hormones can also cause bipolar disorder. Things like stressful events, traumas, and using drugs can start it off in people who are more likely to get it because of their genes.

About 60% of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder also have issues with drugs or alcohol. Not getting enough sleep can make a manic episode more likely. Women tend to have rapid mood changes more than men with bipolar disorder.

The reasons behind bipolar disorder are many. It’s a mix of genes, how your body works, and things around you. Knowing these causes is key to helping those with the condition and coming up with good treatments.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

“Bipolar disorder is complex. It needs us to look at genes, biology, and the environment deeply. By understanding how these factors work together, we can do more to help and treat the condition.”

Complications and Co-occurring Conditions

If not treated, bipolar disorder can really change someone’s life for the worse. A big study in 2019 found that over 50% of those with bipolar disorder also faced substance use issues. Another 40% were diagnosed with anxiety at some point. About a third of them dealt with migraine headaches too. Inflammation is key in both conditions. Plus, between one-third and half also suffered from obesity and metabolic syndrome. This makes them twice as likely to have metabolic syndrome than the average person.

The impact of bipolar disorder doesn’t stop at mental health. Physical health is affected too. For instance, around 1 in 6 adults with bipolar also have ADHD. A study involving more than 646,000 people showed that from 11% to 21% had OCD as well. And up to a third of those with bipolar disorder will face an eating disorder. Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder are the main types.

The link between bipolar disorder and physical health issues is clear. Research shows bipolar disorder is associated with conditions like high blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, and heart disease. People with bipolar are more at risk of hyperthyroidism and metabolic syndrome. Affective disorders, including bipolar, also affect bone health and can lead to osteoporosis.

Bipolar disorder’s other problems can be very serious. For example, these individuals are at a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. This means they are more likely to develop congestive heart failure than others. Heart disease is a top cause of death for those with severe mental health issues, such as bipolar. Their lifelong health problems can really impact their daily life and use of healthcare.

Dealing with both the mental and physical health of those with bipolar disorder is very hard. The symptoms, medical issues, and life functions are all connected. This shows a need for care that looks at the whole person.

Complication Prevalence
Substance use disorder Over 50%
Anxiety disorder Approximately 40%
Migraine headaches Close to one-third
Obesity and metabolic syndrome Roughly one-third to one-half
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Nearly 1 in 6 adults
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Between 11% and 21%
Eating disorders Up to one-third

“The complex interplay between bipolar disorder and physical health conditions is well-documented.”

In short, bipolar disorder can lead to many serious issues like substance abuse and suicide risk. Those with bipolar are more likely to have other conditions like anxiety, eating disorders, or heart problems. Addressing these issues means using a complete approach to care.

Living with Bipolar Disorder

Living with bipolar disorder can be tough, but it’s manageable. Many people with the condition lead full lives. They achieve this by doing several key things. This includes watching for signs of mood changes, taking prescribed medicines, talking to therapists, and living healthily.

Coping Strategies and Support

Having a good support system is vital for dealing with bipolar disorder. This means leaning on family, friends, and professionals. They help with both emotional and practical support as you go through high and low times. Mental health teams and crisis services can also step in when needed.

It’s also important for those with bipolar to help themselves. They should stay away from alcohol and drugs, which can make their symptoms worse. Keeping track of moods and sticking to a routine can help maintain stability.

Exercise, like running or swimming, is great for mood in bipolar disorder. Plus, staying with a daily routine that includes healthy eating and good sleep is important. This can help control the mood swings of the condition.

Online groups can be a helpful support. Sites like SANE Support Forum and Bipolar UK eCommunity are good for sharing experiences and getting advice.

If work is too much, there are benefits you might get. These can help with living costs and support.

It’s vital to get immediate help if you feel suicidal. Bipolar disorder increases this risk – more than the general population.

“Managing bipolar disorder is a lifelong journey, but with the right support and self-care strategies, individuals can learn to thrive and lead fulfilling lives.”

With a broad coping strategy, living with bipolar disorder becomes easier. Staying proactive in managing the condition is key. This way, individuals can keep a sense of well-being.

Bipolar Disorder in Children and Adolescents

Bipolar disorder brings very high and very low mood swings. It’s tough when kids or teens have it. You usually find out about it in your teen years or when you’re an adult. But, it might be noticed earlier, even in childhood. If someone in your family has it, there’s a bigger chance you could get it too.

Spotting bipolar in youngsters is hard because mood changes a lot anyway when you’re growing up. Kids with bipolar might show big mood changes, be overly active, or act out a lot. They might also have thoughts moving very fast, do risky things, sleep badly, feel very down or angry, think they’re better than they are, or even think about harming themselves. Sometimes, they might lose touch with what’s real. But, these signs could mean other things too, like ADHD, autism, or just feeling really down.

Getting a bipolar diagnosis in a young person needs a lot of checking by experts. They run tests to make sure it’s bipolar and not something else. Then, they look at every part of the young person’s life to understand fully. Acting fast to get the right help is key. It can stop things getting worse.

Treating bipolar in kids often mixes medicine with talking therapies like CBT and working with the whole family. Keeping up with this plan is crucial, even when they feel fine. How they are might change, so their treatment might need to change too.

Parents play a big role in supporting their child with bipolar. By being understanding and helping with a structured life or mood chart, they can make a real difference. This way, you can see how well the treatment’s working.

It’s vital to pick up on bipolar early and treat it right to avoid long-lasting effects. With support and proper care, young people with bipolar can handle their symptoms and still have a good life.

Symptom Description
Mood Swings Serious and rapid changes in mood, from extremely high (mania) to extremely low (depression).
Hyperactivity Increased energy, restlessness, and impulsive behaviour.
Aggressive Behaviour Outbursts of anger, irritability, and sometimes violent actions.
Risky Behaviours Engaging in activities that could be harmful, such as reckless spending, substance abuse, or unsafe sexual practices.
Sleep Disturbances Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much.
Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviours Thoughts about or attempts to end one’s life, especially during depressive episodes.
Loss of Contact with Reality Experiencing hallucinations, delusions, or a distorted perception of reality.

Bipolar disorder in children and teenagers is complex but can be managed with the right treatment. By spotting the signs early and providing support, professionals and families can help young people live fulfilled lives despite the challenges.

Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Bipolar disorder is a mental health issue. It shows extreme mood changes between being very high and very low. These changes can greatly upset someone’s everyday life and how they interact with others. Even though there’s no cure, there are many ways to manage it. This includes both medicine and therapy. By working on this, people with bipolar disorder can get better.

It’s vital to understand bipolar’s symptoms, types, and how it starts, because it helps in finding the right care. Usually, it starts when someone is a teenager or just a bit older. Their first high or low point happens around this time. But, sometimes, even kids can show signs of this disorder.

Having bipolar disorder can involve big mood changes. These can be periods of high energy or very low mood, or a mix of them both. When in a high mood, a person might feel strong and not need much sleep. They might do things without thinking. Sometimes, they might even see or believe things that aren’t real. In the low moments, they might feel very sad and lack energy.

This disorder is not always easy to spot. It can look a lot like other mental issues, like major depression or ADHD. It’s best to see a doctor who knows about bipolar disorder for a correct diagnosis. They will do tests and talk about past medical history to understand better.

Treating bipolar disorder often involves both drugs and talking therapy. Medicines that help keep mood swings under control are often used. These might be mood stabilisers, like lithium. Other drugs, like antipsychotics, and therapies, like CBT, can also help a lot. A mix of treatments is usually the best way to go.

Dealing with bipolar disorder is a long journey. But many people do very well in their life and relationships. The key is to get the right support. Together with treatment, people with bipolar can lead good lives. They just need to find ways that work for them to handle the challenges.

“Bipolar disorder is a long-term condition that requires ongoing care.”


Bipolar disorder is a lifelong mental health condition that requires ongoing management. But, many with this disorder can live fulfilling lives. It’s important to spot the signs, get professional help, and be involved in your own care. This way, you can handle the ups and downs better and lessen their effects on your life and relationships. Despite its challenges, things are getting better for those with bipolar disorder. This is because of advances in research and treatments.

A lot more is known about bipolar disorder now, making it easier to manage. People with bipolar disorder can use proven therapies, medicines, and changes to their lifestyle to stay stable. Continuing help from doctors, family, and friends is vital for their success and happiness.

In short, bipolar disorder can be managed well with the right strategies. A full treatment plan and a supportive community are key. They help people with bipolar disorder overcome challenges and live meaningful lives. As we learn more and care more about mental health, the future for those with bipolar disorder looks brighter.


What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition. It causes extreme mood swings. People with this disorder can go through highs (mania) and lows (depression).

These changes can make it hard to live a normal life. They may affect relationships and daily activities.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

During a manic episode, someone with bipolar might feel very happy, full of energy or very irritable. They might not need much sleep, talk fast, and take risks.

In a low, depressive phase, they could feel sad, hopeless, or have no energy. They might lose interest in things they normally enjoy. Some might also see or believe things that aren’t real (hallucinations or delusions).

What are the different types of bipolar disorder?

The main types are bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. In bipolar I, there’s at least one severe manic episode. In bipolar II, there’s a mix of depressive and less severe hypomanic episodes. Cyclothymic disorder involves frequent mood changes, but they’re not as extreme.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

To diagnose bipolar disorder, healthcare experts check for specific signs. They use a manual called the DSM-5-TR. Evaluation includes talking about symptoms, a physical check, and sometimes lab tests to rule out other health problems.

How is bipolar disorder treated?

The aim of treatment is to stabilise mood and lessen symptoms. It’s often a mix of medicines, therapy, and strategies to manage the condition.

Mood stabilisers and sometimes antipsychotics or antidepressants are used. Therapy, like cognitive behavioural therapy, helps with coping skills and avoiding triggers.

What causes bipolar disorder?

The cause is not fully understood, but genes, brain chemistry, and the environment seem to play a role. If someone in your family has bipolar disorder, you might be more likely to get it too.

Stress, trauma, and drug abuse can also increase the risk. So could imbalances in certain brain chemicals and hormones.

What are the complications of bipolar disorder?

If bipolar disorder is not treated, it can lead to serious problems. These could be about drugs, money, or the law. It might harm relationships, work, and school. There’s also a higher risk of suicide.

Other issues, like anxiety, eating disorders, or physical health problems, could happen alongside bipolar disorder.

How can I manage bipolar disorder?

To manage bipolar disorder, look out for early warning signs and follow your treatment plan. This includes taking medicine, going to therapy, and living healthily.

Getting support from friends, family, and mental health experts is vital. They can help you through the challenges of bipolar disorder.

Can bipolar disorder affect children and teenagers?

Yes, kids and teens can get bipolar disorder too. It might look different from what adults experience. Doctors need to be careful when diagnosing young people. This is to make sure it’s not just part of normal growing up.

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