What Is Bipolar Disorder?

The article will discuss bipolar disorder, its symptoms and risk factors, and effective treatments opportunities.

Table of Contents

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by soaring highs and devastating lows and can negatively affect people’s quality of life in several ways. Statistics show that the lifetime prevalence of bipolar I disorder is 1.06% and 1.57% for bipolar II disorder. 1

Background on Bipolar Disorder

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of extreme mood swings. The highs are known as mania or hypomania (a less severe type of mania), while the lows are known as depression. Episodes may occur rarely or often, with the possibility of various symptoms occurring between episodes.

When in a manic state, a person will experience bipolar symptoms such as euphoria, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. The depressive state will involve feelings of hopelessness and withdrawal. Bipolar depression is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured, but it can be managed with the right bipolar treatment.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are various types of bipolar disorder, including:

  • Bipolar I Disorder: People with bipolar I will experience at least one full manic episode and may or may not experience depressive episodes. The condition may be so severe that it will trigger psychosis. 
  • Bipolar II Disorder: Individuals with bipolar II will have at least one depressive episode and one hypomanic episode, but they will never experience mania.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: People with cyclothymic disorder (CD) will experience at least two years of hypomania and low-level depressive episodes. Children may be diagnosed with CD if they experience these bipolar symptoms for one year.

Causes and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Discover the possible causes of bipolar disorder and the symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depression.

Potential Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Scientists are not sure exactly what causes bipolar depression, but they feel the following factors are likely to be involved:
  • Biological Differences: It is believed that bipolar disorder may be caused by irregularities or physical changes in the brain, such as damage or loss of brain cells in the hippocampus and neurotransmitter and mitochondrial abnormalities. One brain imaging study showed elevated brain signals in the cerebral white matter and cerebellum in patients with bipolar I.2
  • Genetics: Bipolar disorder is more likely to occur in people with close relatives who have the disorder. Research estimates that people with parents or siblings with bipolar disorder are four to six times more likely to develop the disorder themselves.3

Signs and Symptoms of Different Bipolar Disorders

Mania and hypomania have similar symptoms, but mania is more severe. They include:
  • Being abnormally upbeat
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Excessive talkativeness
  • Restlessness
  • Exaggerated sense of self-confident
  • Distractibility
  • Agitation

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

The signs and symptoms of depression include:
  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from society
  • Restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Indecisiveness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of energy
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Thoughts of suicide

Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis

To determine if a patient has bipolar disorder, a medical professional must conduct a variety of observations, examinations, and tests. Here’s how medical professionals diagnose bipolar disorder:

Physical Exam

A physical exam will determine if a physical condition is contributing to any symptoms adversely affecting the person’s mental state.

Psychiatric Assessment

The doctor will ask questions about the patient’s symptoms and how they affect their daily life. Assessing the mental health of the patient should involve detailed responses regarding the symptoms, possible triggers, and length of episodes.

Mood Charting

Mood charting involves keeping a chart to record mood at set intervals each day. This allows medical professionals to gain a better understanding of the frequency and severity of moods experienced throughout the day as well as keep track of external factors that may be causing mood changes.

Criteria for Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms will be compared against the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which holds the criteria for bipolar disorder.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can be a difficult condition to deal with on a daily basis. Fortunately, many bipolar treatments are available, including:

Medicine for Bipolar Disorder:

Medicines utilized for bipolar treatment include:
  • Mood stabilizers: Mood stabilizers for bipolar will help control manic and hypomanic episodes. 
  • Antipsychotics: Antipsychotics are a strong solution used to treat depression and mania if other treatments aren’t working. 
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants may be prescribed to alleviate depressive symptoms. 
  • Antidepressant-antipsychotic: An antidepressant-antipsychotic will reduce depression and work as a mood stabilizer. 
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Anti-anxiety medications may be used on a short-term basis to reduce anxiety and improve sleep. 


Psychotherapy opportunities that help alleviate the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT): IPSRT involves getting the person on a steady routine, which is beneficial to help stabilize mood. 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT aims to identify the cause of negative behavior and replace unhealthy thought processes with healthy coping mechanisms. A meta-analysis of nineteen studies found that CBT increased social and psychological functionality and decreased manic episodes in patients with bipolar disorder.4
  • Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation is used to educate individuals with bipolar disorder and their family members about the condition to learn about its signs, symptoms, causes, statistics, research, and treatment methods. Additionally, psychoeducation can teach and provide advice on healthy coping mechanisms and ways to manage symptoms.
  • Family-focused therapy: Family-focused therapy brings the family into sessions so they can learn about the best ways to help manage mood swings and provide proper support. 
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): TMS is a type of therapy that involves the use of magnetic fields. The magnetism stimulates nerve cells in the brain to improve mood.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): ECT involves electric currents that are sent to the brain to induce a brief seizure. It may cause changes in brain chemistry that can be effective in treating bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses.

Lifestyle and Home Remedies

There are several lifestyle and home remedies that work as effective bipolar disorder treatments. They include:
  • Regular Exercise: Exercise boosts serotonin levels, helping combat feelings of depression and anxiety. 
  • Consider keeping a mood chart: A mood chart can bring attention to external factors that are affecting mood to know what specific negative stimuli and triggers to avoid.
  • Meditation: Meditation reduces anxiety and stress. 
  • Create a healthy routine: A healthy and regular routine has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of bipolar disorder. 
  • Form healthy relationships: It’s important for people with bipolar disorder to form healthy relationships with those who will provide support and positive reinforcement. 

Get Help at Soledad House

Bipolar disorder can greatly reduce the quality of life. If you are struggling with bipolar disorder, don’t hesitate to contact us at Soledad House to receive the help you need.

Soledad House is a women’s only treatment center that offers a serene and safe environment, a seamless experience, and top-notch care. We can treat anyone from professionals to students to parents and more. No matter how complex your condition is, we will find an approach that works.

Reach Out and Begin Healing

Don’t let bipolar disorder keep you from enjoying the things you love. Call Soledad House today. We will get you on a path to increased wellness.