Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, which is hard to diagnose.
While everyone has times when they feel “up” and times when they feel “down,” bipolar disorder is characterized by very extreme lows- “depression” and very extreme highs- “mania or hypomania.” Times of depression may lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, negatively impacting involvement in everyday life and work, while times of mania may produce abnormally high energy levels, inability to sleep, and can lead to irrational behaviors.
Bipolar disorder often manifests in the following symptoms during episodes of depression:
- Feelings of hopelessness, despair, guilt
- Lack of interest in regular activities
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Reduced energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Suicidal thoughts
Bipolar disorder may manifest in the following symptoms during episodes of mania:
- Extreme energy or jumpiness
- Exaggerated self-confidence
- Reduced need for sleep
- Easily distracted
- Unusually talkative
- Poor judgment
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
There is no known cause of bipolar disorder but a few possible causes include:
- Biological differences: individuals who have bipolar disorder seem to have some physical changes in their brains.
- Genetics: individuals with immediate family members who have bipolar disorder are more likely to have bipolar disorder themselves.
Additional risk factors for bipolar disorder include:
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Stressful situations: experiencing trauma or several stressful life circumstances may trigger bipolar disorder
Treatments for bipolar disorder may including any of the following:
- Psychotherapy is often used to treat bipolar disorder. A variety of approaches may be used including Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) which may help to identify triggers and learn to cope in the situation or Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IRSRT) which helps establish healthy daily routines.
- Prescription Medications may be used to relieve symptoms. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication are common choices.
- Family-focused therapy can be used to help loved ones better support a family member with bipolar disorder.