Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that results in extreme mood swings, to include emotional highs known as mania or hypomania, and extreme lows known as depression. These shifts in mood and affect can cause extreme distress to sleep, energy, behaviors, judgment, and cognition or thinking.

There are few types of bipolar disorder that are inclusive of mania, hypomania, and depression.

  • Bipolar 1 disorder: Must have had at least one manic episode, followed or preceded by a major depressive episode. In some severe cases, periods of psychosis may become triggered.
  • Bipolar 2 disorder: Must have had at least one hypomanic episode, and one major depressive episode; however there has never been a manic episode.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Symptoms present for at least two years, to include cycling periods of hypomania and periods of depressive symptoms that do not meet criteria for major depressive symptomatology

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.

Depressive Episode: 

  • Extreme sadness
  • Hopelessness 
  • Irritable 
  • Loss of interest in activities of daily living
  • Feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
  • Feelings of guilt or despair
  • Disruption to sleep or fatigue 

Manic/Hypomanic Episode: 

  • Feeling full of energy
  • Feeling invincible 
  • Having lots of ideas or plans (some grandiose in nature)
  • Easily distracted, irritable, or easily agitated 
  • Having no desire to sleep or eat
  • Make decisions on impulse that are potentially risky, harmful, or out of character
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria) 
  • Racing thoughts

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Although a direct cause to bipolar disorder has not yet been identified, research has shown there are contributing factors that correlate to the development of the disorder, to include:

  • Genetics: blood relationship to someone with bipolar disorder has been shown to increase likelihood of developing the disorder
  • Chemical imbalance: too much or too little of particular chemicals within the body can lead to depressive or manic symptoms
  • Trauma history: childhood trauma has been linked to development of bipolar disorder, due to sustained emotional or physical abuse, and neglect. These experiences can lead to challenges with emotional regulation in adulthood.

Getting Support

Treatment for bipolar disorder aims to support and reduce intrusive symptoms and the frequency of episodes of both depressive and manic states. Treatment for bipolar disorder varies based on what type of bipolar one has, and preferences or responsiveness to varying forms of treatment styles and frequencies. 

  • Medication: If medication has been prescribed, it’s important to take it as prescribed and communicate with your healthcare professional about any side effects or concerns.
  • Therapy: Behavioral therapy, coaching, and other supportive services can help you learn coping strategies and develop skills to manage symptoms, such as time management, organization, and social skills.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder, improve focus and concentration, and decrease stress.
  • Sleep: Adequate sleep is important for managing symptoms of bipolar disorder. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and establish a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Nutrition: A healthy diet can help improve symptoms of bipolar disorder. Avoid foods high in sugar and processed foods, and focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein.
  • Stress management: Stress can exacerbate bipolar disorder symptoms, so it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing can be helpful.
  • Support system: Having a supportive network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals can be beneficial in managing bipolar disorder. Seek out support groups or organizations dedicated to bipolar disorder awareness and advocacy.

Remember, everyone’s experience with bipolar disorder or related disorders is different, so it’s important to work with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized plan for managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.