What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a condition that many people have heard of but most don’t know the exact details of. You can categorize bipolar disorder as a brain disorder that causes unusual behaviors, thoughts, and actions. In short, it can be described as a manic-depressive condition.



Professionals have broken bipolar disorders down into four categories: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, Cyclothymic Disorder (cyclothymia), and Unspecified Bipolar Disorder. All different categories of bipolar exhibit manic behavior such as elated and energized behavior. These periods can also be negative or depressive in nature.



Let’s examine each categorization of bipolar disorder.



Bipolar I Disorder



Someone who has bipolar I disorder experiences manic behavior with periods lasting 7 days or longer. Alternatively, the manic behavior could be so extensive that it requires hospitalization. Often times bipolar I also includes 2 week or more depressive episodes.



Bipolar II Disorder



Bipolar II is defined as manic and depressive behavior that is less extensive than that experienced with bipolar I disorder. Not full blown manic episodes, and typically not requiring hospitalization.



Cyclothymic Disorder



Cyclothymic disorder is also known as cyclothymia. This condition presents itself as recurrent episodes of hypomanic and depressive behavior exhibited over two years. However, both the hypomanic and depressive behavior does not quite meet the diagnostic requirements to be defined as such.



Other Unspecified Bipolar Disorders



Any bipolar diagnosis that does not meet one of the three above requirements falls under unspecified bipolar disorders. It may also be under other specified bipolar disorders.



Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder



Although bipolar disorder is not usually diagnosed in children, if you think you or your child may have bipolar disorder it’s important that you speak with a professional such as a counselor, social worker, or therapist. A doctor may also diagnose bipolar disorder. In order to diagnose bipolar and eliminate the possibility of other conditions you will receive a physical exam as well as a psychological exam. Several conditions are capable of mixing and appearing similar to bipolar.



A good example of a similar condition is someone with depression who experiences a one off manic episode.



Bipolar Disorder Symptoms



Bipolar disorder is broken down into two categories of symptoms, manic symptoms and depressive symptoms. Not every patient exhibits every symptom. Each patient is unique and may experience different symptoms in different episodes. Here are the common symptoms of bipolar episodes broken down by their categories.



Manic Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder



  • Feeling of being “high”
  • A large amount of energy
  • High levels of activity
  • Constant fidgeting or moving
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Agitation and/or irritability
  • Risky behavior
  • Feeling of heightened ability to multitask
  • Really fast talking
  • Racing thoughts



Depressive Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder



  • Feeling sad or down
  • Emptiness or hopelessness
  • Decreased energy
  • Less engagement in activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetting things
  • Difficulty focusing/concentrating
  • Eating too much
  • Eating too little
  • Feeling slowed down
  • Thoughts of death
  • Suicidal Ideation



Besides these symptoms, some people who have bipolar might also experience psychosis. Extreme exhibition of the symptoms related to bipolar disorder in which they lose touch with reality. During psychotic episodes the patient might experience hallucinations and delusions.



Treatment For Bipolar Disorder



Bipolar disorder is often treated with medication. A number of medications are used to address specific symptoms and it depends on your diagnosis and specific symptoms. Some of the common medications for bipolar disorder include: mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants. These medications might be used by themselves or combined with each other.



Combined with medication you will go through outpatient psychiatric treatment to help cope with symptoms and live a healthy life. For extreme cases of bipolar disorder you might need inpatient psychiatric treatment.



It is currently not possible to get rid of bipolar disorder, it is a lifelong condition. That being said, the symptoms can be treated and it is possible to live a long and healthy life.



Every year bipolar disorder affects more than 5.5 million people. Men, women, children, adults, all can experience bipolar disorder. Seeking treatment is an important part of living a regular and healthy life with bipolar disorder. If you or a family member might have bipolar disorder it is important that you seek a professional to evaluate you.