What is bipolar disorder?


Know the basics

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a serious mental condition that causes you to have extreme mood swings. You can change from being very happy (mania) to being extremely sad (depression). Often you can have normal moods in between. When you are down, you feel depressed, hopeless and may lose interest in daily activities. But when you are up, you feel full of excitement and energetic. These mood swings may occur a few times a year or even a few times a week, for more severe cases. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. It is important to seek medical attention to control your mood swings.

How common is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder often starts during late teen or early adult years. But children and adults can both have bipolar disorder. At least half of all cases start before age 25 and ususally lasts throughout life. Always consult your doctor for more information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

When you have bipolar disorder you will experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from your 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. You may also be explosive and irritable during a mood episode. Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood.

During a manic episode, some signs and symptoms may include:

  • Feeling overly happy and excited;
  • Extremely irritable;
  • Eat more;
  • Sleep very little;
  • Behaving impulsively and engage in high risk and pleasurable behaviors;
  • Talking very fast and jumping from one idea to another;
  • Reduced ability to judge and often confused when deciding the matter;
  • You can hear strange voices or see hallucinations.

During a depressive episode, some signs and symptoms may include:

  • Feeling overly sad and hopeless for a long period of time;
  • Loss of interest in daily activities;
  • Eat less;
  • Feeling drowsy;
  • Feeling self-conscious about themselves;
  • Having problems concentrating;
  • Having suicidal thoughts.

These mood episodes may occur a few times a year or as often as every week. Please contact you doctor if you or your loved-one are suffereing from any of the signs and symptoms above.

When should I see my doctor?

You need to see a doctor if you:

  • Have any signs and symptoms of mood episodes that last for a long period of time;
  • Having suicidal thoughts;
  • Feeling aggressive and confrontational;
  • Or if you have trouble sleeping that is lasting for days.

Know the causes

What causes bipolar disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown but there are several factors that may be involved. These factors include:

  • Brain chemistry: The brain can go through physical changes that affect the levels of brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for your moods.
  • Genetic inheritance: Your parent or family member may have bipolar and have passed the trait down to you.
  • Social influences: Researches have suggested there may be social factors that may cause bipolar disorder. These factors may include a stressful traumatic event during childhood, low self-esteem, or experiencing a tragic loss.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for bipolar disorder?

These risk factors that may increase your chance of developing bipolar disorder, may include:

  • Periods of high stress;
  • Drug or alcohol abuse;
  • Have a family history of bipolar disorder had a mental illness or the other;
  • Or having a traumatic life change, such as a sudden loss of a loved-one.


The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. ALWAYS consult your doctor.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

For a proper diagnosis, your psychiatrist may perform the following tests:

  • Physical exam: This test will help determine the source of your symptoms.
  • Psychological exam: Your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your feelings, mood episodes and behavior patterns.
  • Mood charting: Your doctor may keep a diary of your sleep patterns, moods and behaviors to help determine your diagnosis.

How is bipolar disorder treated?

Treatments for bipolar disorder may not cure you but will stabilize your mood swings. Your treatment may be determined be determined by your psychiatrist (a doctor who specializes in mental disorders). Depending on your condition, some treatment options may include:

  • Drug therapy: Your doctor may prescribe medications to stabilize your mood. This will help relieve your symptoms. You may need to take your prescribed medication for a long period of time to prevent any depressive or suicidal episodes. These drugs may include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, or anti-anxiety drugs.
  • Counseling: You may need to see a counselor to help you talk about your condition and how to get through your mood episodes. There may be support groups that can help you live and cope with your disorder.
  • Substance abuse treatment: If you are suffering from substance addiction, it is important to treat the addiction. The addiction will only make it harder for you to manage your disorder.
  • Hospitalization: In severe cases, you may need to stay in the hospital for regular monitoring. This is needed when you have signs of being suicidal or psychotic. At this stage, you may cause harm to yourself or others.

Not every situation is the same, you should discuss with your psychiatrist what is the best treatment option is for you.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage bipolar disorder?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Bipolar disoder:

  • Report immediately to your doctor or someone you trust if you have thoughts of suicide;
  • Get enough sleep byhaving a good sleep routine;
  • Get regular physical activity and exercise;
  • Stay away from unhealthy relationships;
  • Quit drinking alcohol and avoid substance abuse.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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