Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by alternating periods of high energy or mood and low energy/mood/depression. Bipolar disorder is sometimes called manic depression because those with it can seem to be manic sometimes and depressed the rest of the time.1
Generally, those diagnosed with bipolar disorder have one or more “major depressive” episodes characterized by low mood and energy and further depressive symptoms, then one or more “manic or mixed” episodes characterized by overconfidence, high energy, and related symptoms.
Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that can have lifelong effects on individuals and families. It currently affects nearly 3% of adolescent and adult individuals in the United States alone.
Despite its significant prevalence, bipolar disorder isn’t very well understood, and its causes can seem mysterious. Many wonder whether bipolar disorder is genetic and can be triggered later in life.
Bipolar disorder can be dangerous because it changes thinking and perception. For example, an individual diagnosed with bipolar disorder may feel depressed and do something drastic in their life. While in a manic period, they may quit their job or undertake risky behaviors they would normally not.
It is important to be able to recognize indications of bipolar disorder, in order to best administer treatment. Bipolar disorder usually accompanies key symptoms such as:2
The overall issue with bipolar disorder is inconsistency. Those diagnosed with bipolar disorder feel that their energy levels and moods fluctuate, leading to major lifestyle disruptions or health risks.
Bipolar disorder is classified in three broad types; these will be detailed below.
This normally includes manic episodes lasting one week or more or severe mania that requires hospitalization. Bipolar I disorder may also include a major depressive episode of two weeks or more. Doctors can diagnose an individual with bipolar I disorder after a single manic episode.
This is usually accompanied by hypomania, a less intense form of mania. To be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, an individual must experience a major depressive episode that lasts two weeks or more either preceding or following a hypomania episode.
This causes the symptoms of hypomania and/or depression for at least two years. However, some individuals may be diagnosed with bipolar disorder and experience symptoms that do not classify them into the above categories.
Furthermore, most individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder develop the condition’s symptoms before the age of 20. It is possible to develop bipolar disorder symptoms later in life, but it is almost never diagnosed in individuals over the age of 40.
Although bipolar disorder is somewhat genetic, more research is required to fully understand the link between genes and developing the condition.
Genetics play a big role in one’s likelihood of developing bipolar disorder. But other risk factors can increase or decrease the likelihood as well.
A person’s brain structure or any brain injuries they suffer(ed) can influence bipolar disorder development or symptoms. For example, head injuries or trauma may trigger bipolar disorder symptoms if a person is already at risk of developing them.
Inflammation, fluctuations in cortisol levels, or other disruptions to functional brain activity can further lead to the development of bipolar disorder symptoms.
Various environmental factors can also influence the likelihood of developing bipolar disorder or keeping it “subdued” or not showcasing symptoms. These environmental factors include:
Bipolar disorder is treated by medical professionals and therapists in a variety of ways. Most treatment methods rely on medication, psychotherapy techniques, or lifestyle medications (either solely or in conjunction with each other).
Common medications to treat bipolar disorder include antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-anxiety medications, and sleeping pills. These can help to rebalance the brain’s hormone levels or treat the direct symptoms of manic or depressive episodes suffered by individuals with bipolar disorder.
Psychotherapy is a form of talk therapy where individuals speak with therapists and other trained professionals to identify sources of emotional trauma. Through psychotherapy, those with bipolar disorder can learn to handle their symptoms or identify the root cause of some of their emotional needs.
Exposure is a frequent intervention technique in cognitive behavioral therapy that aids patients in facing their concerns. A specific form is called prolonged exposure, which teaches patients how to approach traumatic memories, feelings, and circumstances gradually and safely.
If you or a loved one have experienced the symptoms of bipolar disorder, know that you can always get the assistance and resources you need at Pacific Beach Health. When you contact us today, we can connect you to licensed medical and care professionals to help you understand your condition and its symptoms.