Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, Causes, and Effects

what is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a spectrum of mental diseases characterized by strong mood swings ranging from excessively raised highs known as mania or hypomania episodes to emotional lows known as depressed episodes. Bipolar disorder is more than simply mood swings; it is a recurring, and sometimes severe, disturbance of normal emotions that impairs a person’s ability to function, maintain relationships, work, and make good decisions.

Bipolar disorder affects roughly 5.7 million Americans. Many people only have a cursory awareness of the condition based on what they see on television and read in popular magazines. Understanding bipolar disorder symptoms, causes, and consequences, as well as treatment choices, is the greatest approach to help yourself or someone you know who has the disorder.

People with this disorder frequently have periodic spells of mania or hypomania and depression, perhaps with periods of no symptoms in between. These separate phases are referred to as mood episodes.

People with bipolar disorder may have a variety of mood episodes, including:

  • Manic episodes: are characterized by separate phases of unusually and consistently high or irritated mood that last at least one week.
  • Hypomanic episodes: are similarly distinguished by separate times of unusually and persistently high or irritated emotions, but hypomanic episodes continue at least four days and are present at most hours of the day virtually every day.
  • Major depressive episodes: are times of mental and physical exhaustion that last at least two weeks. Typical symptoms include deep and severe emotions of despair, hopelessness, melancholy, and worthlessness or guilt; changes in food, sleep disruptions, agitated behaviors such as pacing or hand wringing; frequent thoughts of death or suicide; and difficulty making decisions and focusing.
  • Mixed episodes: are episodes in which mania and depression coexist. During a mixed episode, for example, someone may experience both the high agitation and restlessness associated with mania and the suicidal thoughts more commonly associated with sadness.

What Are the Types of Bipolar Disorders?

Bipolar disorder is characterized by recurrent periods of depression and mania and is thought to be a lifelong condition. The intensity of mood swings and how they manifest determine the type of disease identified.

The kind of bipolar disorder a person has is determined by the number, length, and type of episodes. Bipolar disorder is classified into three types: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.

Bipolar I Disorder

Maniac depression is another term for bipolar I disorder. Manic depression manifests differently in each person, but a history of at least one manic episode is required for a diagnosis. A manic episode is characterized by a period of time during which emotions are heightened in a positive direction for no apparent cause. A few weeks of euphoria at a piece of excellent news is not manic, but a few weeks of it might imply mania.

Individuals with bipolar I frequently experience depression after periods of mania. Depression may wreak havoc on your life and even lead to suicide ideation. Individuals with bipolar I disorder frequently lead quite regular lives in between episodes.

Bipolar II Disorder

Depressive periods alternate with hypomanic episodes in bipolar II disorder, but a complete manic episode, as seen in bipolar I disorder, never occurs. While hypomania is less severe than mania, it can nevertheless impair people’s ability to function in their everyday lives.


Cyclothymia is a milder mood condition that is similar to bipolar disorder. Cyclothymia sufferers’ ups and downs seldom approach the extremes found in bipolar patients. The hypomanic periods that someone with cyclothymia exhibits might be beneficial in reaching certain goals, but some people with this disorder also suffer from moderate chronic depression, which can interfere with their lifestyle or relationships. Cyclothymia affects around 1% of the population in the United States, according to data.

Substance-Induced Mood Disorders

Substance misuse is sometimes connected with bipolar symptoms. Alcohol, cocaine, opioids, sedatives, and other drugs can create sadness or euphoria, as well as mania. When seeking therapy for bipolar-related symptoms, it’s critical to disclose any substances you’re taking, since this helps medical practitioners understand how to treat you.

What Causes Manic Depression?

Medical doctors do not completely understand the underlying etiology of bipolar disease, while most agree that genetics play a significant influence. In fact, nearly two-thirds of those who have both a mother and a father with the disorder will also have the disorder. Medical professionals have also pinpointed certain chemicals in the brain that are thought to have a part in the chemical imbalance that causes mood swings. These are the chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. According to studies, if the amounts of these substances in your body are out of balance, you may experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Manic and Hypomanic Episodes

Mania is more severe than hypomania, and it results in more obvious issues at work, school, and social activities, as well as relationship problems. Mania can sometimes lead to a disconnection from reality (psychosis), which necessitates hospitalization.

  • Grandiosity or exaggerated self-esteem (feeling unusually important, powerful, or talented)
  • Decreased need for sleep.
  • I’m talking a lot more than normal, and I’m talking a lot louder and faster than usual.
  • Distracted easily
  • Doing a lot of things at once and arranging more events in a day than you can handle
  • Dangerous conduct (e.g., eating and drinking excessively, spending and giving away a lot of money)
  • Uncontrollable racing thoughts or ideas or subjects that change often
  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired Increased activity, energy or agitation
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments

Major Depressive Episodes

A major depressive episode is defined as a set of symptoms that are severe enough to impair daily activities such as job, school, social activities, or relationships. Five or more of the following symptoms are present during an episode:

  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness, as well as intense melancholy or despair
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling worthless or remorseful
  • Sleep issues, such as sleeping too little or too much, restlessness or agitation, or sluggish speech or movements
  • Appetite increase or decrease
  • Fatigue and a loss of energy
  • Concentration, memory, or decision-making difficulties
  • Suicide or death thoughts on a regular basis

Depressive episodes vary in severity, length, and debilitating character from episode to episode and from person to person. According to researchers, some people only have one or two episodes in their lifetimes, while others have recurrent recurrences and still others have milder but persistent depressive symptoms.

Catatonia and Psychosis

Bipolar disorder can also cause catatonia (inability to move properly) and psychosis (the appearance of hallucinations or delusions). More than 10% of people with severe mental diseases have been observed to have catatonia.
Psychosis is a frequent symptom of bipolar disorder, with more than half of persons reporting at least one sign of psychosis during their illness.
Bipolar disorder frequently coexists with other mental disorders, making diagnosis and treatment challenging. Obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, and drug addiction disorders are among these ailments.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms in children and teens

Bipolar disorder symptoms in adolescents and teenagers might be difficult to spot. It might be difficult to identify whether these are typical mood swings, the effect of stress or trauma, or symptoms of a mental health disease other than bipolar disorder.

Children and teenagers may experience different significant depressive, manic, or hypomanic episodes, although their patterns may differ from those experienced by adults with bipolar disorder. Moods might also fluctuate quickly during episodes. Between bouts, some children may experience periods with no mood problems

Severe mood swings that are distinct from their regular mood swings are one of the most noticeable indications of bipolar illness in children and teens.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness that needs long-term treatment. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, appropriate treatment methods differ from person to person.


Psychotherapy employs a number of strategies to help people with bipolar disorder develop the skills and coping mechanisms they need to diagnose and manage their disease.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and psychoeducation are all common treatments for bipolar illness. In the treatment of bipolar illness, psychotherapy is frequently combined with additional treatment options like drugs and treatments.


Drug therapy is thought to be crucial in the treatment of bipolar illness. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers (anticonvulsants, lithium), atypical antipsychotics, and other drugs are common treatments for bipolar disorder.

Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are used to treat depression in people with bipolar disorder, although they are frequently avoided or taken with caution since they might cause mania or aggravate mood cycling.

Mood stabilizers are used to treat mania and can lower the risk of suicide. Anxiety and sleep disruption symptoms may be treated with certain drugs.