Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people go back and forth between periods of a very good mood and depression. The "mood swings" between mania and depression can be very quick but also be far apart from each other.

Types and Causes

The same amount of men and women are effected by bipolar disorder. It usually starts between ages 15 - 25. The exact cause is unknown, but it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder.
Types of bipolar disorder:
  • Type I: People effected by bipolar disorder type I have had at least one manic episode and periods of major depression. This used to be called manic depression.
  • Type II: Those people have never had full mania. Instead they experience periods of high energy levels and impulsiveness that are not as extreme as mania (called hypomania). These periods alternate with episodes of depression.
  • Cyclothymia: This is a mild form of bipolar disorder and people affected by it have less severe mood swings and alternate between hypomania and mild depression. People with bipolar disorder type II or cyclothymia may be wrongly diagnosed as having depression.


The manic phase may last from days to months. It can include the following symptoms:
  • Easily distracted
  • Little need for sleep
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor temper control
  • Reckless behavior and lack of self control
    • Binge eating, drinking, and/or drug use
    • Poor judgment
    • Spending sprees
  • Very elevated mood
  • Very involved in activities
    • Excess activity (hyperactivity)
    • Increased energy
    • Racing thoughts
    • Talking a lot
    • Very high self-esteem (false beliefs about self or abilities)
  • Very upset (agitated or irritated)

These symptoms of mania occur with bipolar disorder I. In people with bipolar disorder II, the symptoms of mania are similar but less intense.

The depressed phase of both types of bipolar disorder includes the following symptoms:
  • Daily low mood or sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Eating problems or lack of energy
    • Loss of appetite and weight loss
    • Overeating and weight gain
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
  • Trouble getting to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Pulling away from friends or activities that were once enjoyed

There is a high risk of suicide with bipolar disorder. Patients may abuse alcohol or other substances, which can make the symptoms and suicide risk worse.
Sometimes the two phases overlap. Manic and depressive symptoms may occur together or quickly one after the other in what is called a mixed state.
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Symptoms of the manic and the depressive phase


Periods of depression or mania return in most patients, even with treatment. Some of the main goals of treatment are to prevent self-injury and suicide, make the episode less frequent and severe and others.
The following drugs, called mood stabilizers, are usually used first:
  • Carbamazepine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Lithium
  • Valproate (valproic acid)
Other antiseizure drugs may also be tried.
Other drugs used to treat bipolar disorder include:
  • Antipsychotic drugs and anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) for mood problems
  • Antidepressant medications can be added to treat depression. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to have manic or hypomanic episodes if they are put on antidepressants. Because of this, antidepressants are only used in people who also take a mood stabilizer.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used to treat the manic or depressive phase of bipolar disorder if it does not respond to medication. ECT uses an electrical current to cause a brief seizure while the patient is under anesthesia. ECT is the most effective treatment for depression that is not relieved with medications.
Transcranial magnatical stimulation (TMS) uses high-frequency magnetic pulses to target affected areas of the brain. It is most often used after ECT.

Patients who are in the middle of manic or depressive episodes may need to stay in a hospital until their mood is stable and their behavior is under control.
Getting enough sleep is very important in bipolar disorder. A lack of sleep can trigger a manic episode. Therapy may be helpful during the depressive phase. Joining a support group may help bipolar disorder patients. A patient with bipolar disorder cannot always tell the doctor about the state of the illness. Patients often have trouble recognizing their own manic symptoms.

Connection to Daily Life

Even though it might seem like this disorder is not as bad as, let's say Schizophrenia, which might be true, but it still has a huge impact on the patient's life as well as on he lives of the people around them.

In the so called maniac phase an effected person can lose the ability to judge things appropriately, which might lead to risky financial decisions or problems in work and relationships.
In both, the maniac as well as the depressive phase, drug and alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts and behavior can occur.


Like this statistic shows, males and females are effected equally by bipolar disorder. People between 13 and 17 as well as patients 35 to 49 are most effected by this disorder. People from different ethnicities such as Blacks and Hispanics are more effected than Asians for example.


These links might be helpful, if you want to learn more about Bipolar disorder:

By: Carolin Ernst