Bipolar Disorder – What Is It, Types, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

Understanding This Mood Disorder A Little Better

Bipolar disorder is often misconstrued as depression. In many cases it isn’t diagnosed and treated in time, which can not only endanger the patient but also those around him/her. This article attempts to offer a range of helpful information on bipolar disorder so that it can be better understood and tackled with grace.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Basically, if someone were suffering from bipolar depression, he/she would experience extreme mood swings. So there would be periods of overexcited and overactive behavior (read ‘manic episodes’) followed by prolonged periods of depression and vice versa. It is for this reason that bipolar disorder was previously referred to as ‘Manic Depression’.

Apart from these mood swings, bipolar patients may also experience visual or auditory hallucinations wherein they see or even hear things around them that really aren’t there. Yet, there are others who have delusions wherein they would hold on to an uncommon belief with extreme conviction, which in all fairness would be far from reality.

Roughly put, a person suffering from bipolar disorder is most likely to feel both the highs and lows in between normal mood states, with possibility of experiencing hallucinations and/or delusions.

Different Emotional States Of Bipolar Depression

In order to better understand bipolar disorder, we have to look at the different mood states that can exist within it’s domain:


In bipolar terms, it refers to ‘high’ side of the disorder where the person’s prime state of mood can be characterized as high, expansive, euphoric to a certain extent and irritable in some cases. This state of ‘extreme’ high can stay for as little as a week to a month and more. Nevertheless, the effects of mania are generally quite severe and might require hospitalization.

Psychological symptoms associated with mania can be diverse to the tune of grandiosity, talkativeness, flight of ideas, decreased need for sleep, taking unnecessary risks or even increased psychomotor agitation (performing increasingly goal-directed activities).

During a manic episode, a person might feel full of energy during the episode and therefore do, say or even take up responsibilities that are beyond his/her capabilities. However, once the ‘high’ wears down, the same actions may seem unnecessary, embarrassing or even futile.


In terms of general symptoms, hypomanic episodes are very similar to manic episodes. However, they are two notable differences to distinguish between the two. Firstly, the mood state in Hypomania isn’t so high as to cause utter disruption in a person’s daily life or require hospitalization for that matter. Secondly, psychotic features like hallucinations and delusions are mostly absent during a hypomanic episode.

In order to be termed hypomania, the elevated mood state has to last for at least four days before dying down, or be present for most of the day, every day.


This is the other side of the spectrum where the person suffering from clinical or major depression lives in a profoundly sad and irritable mood state during the episode. And a depressive state can last for weeks on end. Activities which were previously interesting now feel useless, and the ‘flat mood takes away the desire to perform even the most daily tasks.

In fact, the lows of depression become so debilitating and irritating for a person that he/she feels sick and tired to get out of bed. An even more frightening part of bipolar disorder’s depressive state is that it affects the person’s memory, concentration and with that his/her decision making ability.

Bipolar Subtypes

As is evident from the previous section, bipolar disorder can involve different mood states. That said, here is a look at the different subtypes of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar I:  Mood swings mostly characterized by manic episodes and followed by depressive periods. Still, its quite possible for the latter to not affect some patients.

Bipolar II: An alternating cycle between severe depression and hypomanic episodes, where the later should last for at least four days or more.

Cyclothymic Disorder: Alternation between short, mild depression and short duration of hypomania

Mixed States: A mood state wherein the patient experiences periods of elation and depression at the same time.

Rapid Cycling: Refers to four or more mood episodes every year, the likes of which could be manic, depressive, hypomanic or mixed.

Cause Of Bipolar Disorder

While its still unclear as to what exactly causes bipolar disorder in somebody, scientists and psychology scholars alike believe that a multitude of factors though interaction with each other can produce imbalances in the brain for the disorder to take shape.

Genetic component is one aspect that is being vigorously followed given that the chances of someone being bipolar increases if there is history of the disorder in the family tree. But, this is no guarantee.
Then there could be stress inducing factors (stressors) such as negative life events, traumatic childhood, stressful environment, financial loss, difficult relationships or even chronic illnesses, all of which could trigger bipolar disorder in a person. 

Diagnosis And Treatment

Diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made after following the symptoms associated and then correlating them with the severity of mood episodes being experienced by a patient. Furthermore, knowledge on aspects like length of the episode and frequency of alternation between two episodes are also required for accurate diagnosis.

Comorbidity (coexistence of two or more disorders) is an important consideration when diagnosing bipolar disorder. That’s because bipolar patients seem to be more vulnerable to a range of other psychotic disorders. Therefore, correct diagnosis and treatment of the underlying disorder sometimes goes a long way in treating bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong problem. As such, psychiatrists and psychologists may employ a range of treatment methods to treat the problem. These include psychotherapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, impersonal therapy etc); medications (SSRIs) and hospitalization depending on the nature and severity of the bipolar patient.

Finally, self-help groups offer an effective way to keeping control and prevent any resurfacing of episodes after successful treatment.

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