Understanding Bipolar Disorder  


In this article, the writer breaks down the causes and symptoms of bipolar disorder and shares how to live a more fulfilling life.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a debilitating mental illness that affects 1 in every 5 Americans. It is characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood, energy, activity, and thoughts. There is no one cause of bipolar disorder, but research suggests that biological factors, such as a person’s genes and hormones, strongly influence the development of the condition.

Most experts believe that bipolar disorder develops from a combination of different factors: experience—especially traumatic events that trigger intense feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety; genetics; and vulnerability to environment and stressors. Researchers are still trying to pinpoint all of the causes, but they know that people with bipolar disorder need close support from family and friends to overcome their illness.

Anyone can develop bipolar disorder if he or she has two episodes of mania or two episodes of depression within a 12-month period. If you have any questions or concerns about your own mental health, please consult with your doctor.

Misdiagnosis and Recognition

Bloggers and mental health professionals have put together some great information about bipolar disorder. We’ve outlined some of the most common misconceptions to help you better understand bipolar disorder and how to recognize it in yourself or someone you know.

1. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can only be caused by genetics.

This is simply not true! Although there may be an inherited component to bipolar disorder, there is definitely no one “cause” of the condition. In fact, the cause of bipolar disorder is still unknown, but research suggests that it may be related to a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

2. Anyone can develop bipolar disorder at any time.

This is also not true! While anyone can experience a bipolar episode, the risk increases as you get older and your family history may play a role in your developing the condition. Approximately 1 in 5 individuals living with bipolar disease will develop full-blown mania or severe depression within their lifetime, but rates vary depending on where you live and what kind of life experiences you’ve had. There is no justification for feeling scared or ashamed about having bipolar disorder- it does not determine who you are as a person and there is help available.

Definition of Depression and Mania

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by sadness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. Mania is a mood disorder marked by elevated feelings of elation, euphoria, and inflated self-esteem. Both depression and mania can be accompanied by changes in sleep patterns, appetite, energy levels, thoughts, and behavior.

Manic episodes can be very disruptive to daily life and can lead to impaired functioning at work or school. It is important to seek professional help if you experience significant changes in mood or activity levels that do not go away with treatment.

Symptoms of Depression

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, it is important to seek professional help. Learn about the different symptoms of depression here.

Symptoms of Mania

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that affects over 2.5 million Americans each year. Signs and symptoms of mania vary significantly from person-to-person but can include increased energy, agitation, irritability, hallucinations, and extreme feelings of euphoria or well-being. If you’re noticing any of these signs and symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Here are some common symptoms of mania:

Extremely high levels of energy
Rapid thoughts and speech
Excessive activity, even if it’s reckless
Restlessness or difficulty sitting still
Greatly elevated mood, often accompanied by excessive optimism and self-confidence
Increased sex drive
Compulsive behaviors (e.g. spending, hoarding)
Unusual eating habits (e.g. eating excessive amounts of food or carbohydrates)
Inability to think clearly or make decisionsregular changes in sleep habits

The History of Bipolar Disorder Treatment

The history of bipolar disorder treatment is one of both progress and controversy. While there have been many advances in the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder over the past few decades, there continue to be clashes over how best to proceed.

Below we will take a look at some of the key milestones in the history of bipolar disorder treatment:

1936 – The first case of mania is documented following a psychotic reaction to an antibiotic treatment

1946 – Lithium is introduced as a possible Treatment for Manic Depression

1968 – Depressive Disorder is renamed Bipolar I Disorder

1978 – The first pharmacological trial assessing lithium treatment for bipolar disorder is reported

1990 – The use of anticonvulsants for bipolar disorder treatment begins to grow


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