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Bipolar Disorder

Within the multitude of different mental illnesses, Bipolar Disorder is a fairly common mood disorder.

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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that is oftentimes characterized for its extreme shifts in mood or mood swings. There are three main types of Bipolar Disorder (Type 1, Type 2, and Cyclothymia) but they all share similar symptoms with slight differences.1

People who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder tend to experience episodes of depression and extremely elevated feelings of mood called mania. The depressive episodes caused by bipolar disorder tend to last at least around two weeks. Whereas a high tension (manic) episode can last from several days to weeks. Some may experience episodes of mood changes several times a year whilst some rarely experience mood changes. 1

Bipolar Disorder is chronic and can last a lifetime and affect your everyday life. This specific mental illness is typically a result of cognitive and functional impairment which can lead to damaged unstable relationships, poor job or school performance, legal trouble, problems related to drug and or alcohol use, and even death. 2


Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Although this chronic psychiatric disorder has been around for decades and has become fairly common with around 45 million people worldwide, the exact cause of this disorder remains unknown.

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Bipolar type 2 disorder: You have experienced at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. However, you have never had a manic episode.4

Types of Bipolar Disorder and Its Symptoms

There is a variant of different types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include a series of episodes of hypomania or mania and depression. Symptoms that are related to bipolar disorder can cause unpredictable changes in the person’s mood and behavior which can then result in significant distress and difficulty in life. 4


Bipolar type 1 disorder: You have experienced at least one manic episode that may have preceded or have been followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases of type 1, mania may trigger a break from reality also known as psychosis.4

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Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia): defined by periods of hypomanic episodes as well as periods of depressive symptoms that last for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents).4

What is the difference between mania and hypomania?

Mania and hypomania are both symptoms that can occur with bipolar disorder. At the same time, episodes of mania or hypomania can also occur in people who do not have bipolar disorder. The symptoms of mania and hypomania are quite similar, but the symptoms of mania are more intense.5

What is mania?

Mania is a mood disturbance that can make you feel abnormally energized both in a physical and emotional way. In some cases of severe episodes of mania it could require you to be hospitalized. 

Mania often occurs in people who have bipolar type one disorder.5

What is hypomania?

Hypomania is a milder form of mania. If you experience an episode of hypomania, your energy level is higher than normal. However, it is not as extreme as the energy levels in mania. When enduring hypomania, other surrounding people can notice you have hypomania. It can cause problems in your life, but not to the extreme extent that mania can. Hypomania often occurs in people who have bipolar type two disorder.5

Symptoms of both Hypomania and Mania

  • Having higher than normal energy levels

  • Being restless or unable to sit still

  • Having a decreased need for sleep

  • Having increased self esteem, confidence, or grandiosity

  • Being extremely talkative

  • Having decreased feelings of self-consciousness

  • Having increased sexual desire

  • Engaging in risky behavior; impulsive sex, gambling with life saving, or going on big spending sprees. 

  • Having a racing mind or having lots of new ideas and plans

  • Being easily distracted

  • Taking on multiple projects with no way of finishing them

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When experiencing a manic or hypomanic phase, you may not recognize these changes in yourself. There may be changes that others mention to you, that you are not acting like yourself, you’re not likely to think that anything is wrong.5 Which is why it is important to stay aware and have Mindful check ins with your self.

The Severe symptoms exclusive to Mania

On the contrary of hypomanic episodes, manic episodes have the ability to lead to more serious consequences. When the manic episodes pass, you may be left with the feeling of remorse and or depression for things that you have done during the episode. You are also susceptible to psychotic symptoms like a break from reality.5



  • Visual or auditory hallucinations

  • Delusional thoughts

  • Paranoid thoughts

Symptoms of Major Depressive Episodes

A major depressive episode can include symptoms that are severe enough to induce difficulty in day to day activities such as work, school, social activities, and or relationships.5 A major depressive episode can include five or more of these common symptoms: 

  • Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, emptiness, worthlessness, hopeless, and or tearful

  • Loss of interest and or feeling no pleasure in almost all to all activities

  • Either insomnia or sleeping too much

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain

  • Increase or decrease in appetite

  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

  • Decreased ability to think or concentrate or indecisiveness

  • Thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide


Treating Bipolar Disorder

Treatment for bipolar disorder comes in different forms and can help many people; even those with the most severe forms of bipolar. A common way of treatment plan typically includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy (talk therapy).6

Unfortunately bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Episodes of mania and depression usually come back over time. Long term and continuous treatment can still help people manage these symptoms.6

Certain medications are known to help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some people may find the need to try several different medications before finding medications that work the best.

Medications that are used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizer and second generation antipsychotics. Treatment plans can also include medications that can help target sleep or anxiety.6

People who are taking medication should: 

  • Talk with their health care provider to understand the risks and benefits of the medication.

  • Tell their health care provider about any other prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and or supplements that they are already taking.

  • Report any concerns or side effects to a health care provider right away. The health care provider may need to adjust the dosage or try a different medication. 

  • Remember that medication for bipolar disorder must be taken consistently, as prescribed, even when one is feeling well or okay. 

Note: Remember to avoid stopping a medication without talking to a health care provider about it first. Suddenly stopping a medication may lead to worsening symptoms of bipolar disorder.6 

Common Harmful Misconceptions

Just like other illnesses or disorders that are related to mental health, bipolar disorder is surrounded by many misconceptions and assumptions that can be hurtful to someone who is struggling. It can be better to keep this in mind and think about what you are saying and how it will affect somebody else.7


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Psychotherapy is an effective common form of treatment for many mental illnesses including bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy is an umbrella term for a variety of treatment techniques that aim to help someone identify and change the problems that bring discomfort. It can provide support, education, and guidance to those with bipolar disorder and their families.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms or criteria of bipolar disorder, please talk to your health care provider right away. If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help immediately. 

Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) if you are residing in the United States. 

  1. Holland, Kimberly, and Emma Nicholls. “Everything You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder.” Healthline, 18 Jan. 2018, 

  2. Samidha Tripathi, M.D. “What You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder.” The Doctor Weighs In, The Doctor Weighs In, 7 Jan. 2019, 

  3. “Mental Disorders.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 28 Nov. 2019,

  4. “Bipolar Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Feb. 2021, 

  5. Pietrangelo, Ann. “What You Should Know About Mania vs. Hypomania.” Healthline, 17 Sept. 2018, 

  6. “Bipolar Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 

  7. Robinson, Mara. “Please Stop Believing These 8 Harmful Bipolar Disorder Myths.” Healthline, 6 Nov. 2019,,-which-everybody-has.-. 

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