How common is bipolar disorder?
20% of people who report symptoms of depression to their doctor actually have bipolar disorder. On average, it takes 10 years to receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder after the onset of symptoms.
What causes bipolar disorder?
The exact cause is unknown, but genetic factors are thought to play a significant role. A variety of other factors can also contribute to symptoms, including stress and substance abuse.
Bipolar I disorder is diagnosed if the individual has experienced at least one manic episode. People with bipolar I may also experience hypomania, major depression, or mixed episodes.
Bipolar disorder II is diagnosed if the individual has experienced at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode. People with bipolar II may also experience mixed episodes.
Cyclothymic disorder is diagnosed if the person experiences symptoms of hypomanic and depressive episodes that are not as severe as those seen in bipolar disorder II.
A key factor in distinguishing between types of bipolar disorder rely on the distinction between mania and hypomania. The primary distinguishing feature between mania and hypomania is the extent to which the symptoms interfere with the individual's ability to function. A manic episode is debilitating and often requires hospitalization; a hypomanic episode may disrupt functioning but not to a debilitating extent. Hypomanic episodes may improve productivity so that it appears that the individual is actually functioning better than usual, though this is not really the case.
Symptoms of mania:
Symptoms of hypomania:
Some people with bipolar disorder experience "mixed" episodes. What is a mixed episode?
Mixed episodes are characterized by symptoms of both a manic/hypomanic episode and a depressive episode occurring simultaneously.
Symptoms of a mixed episode:
Psychotherapy can help someone with bipolar disorder identify triggers for symptoms and identify when episodes are more likely to occur.
Mood stabilizing medication can help manage episodes of mania/hypomania and depression in bipolar disorder.
Practices such as sleep hygiene, regular exercise, and avoidance of alcohol/drugs can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.
If an individual is unable to function as the result of their symptoms, they may be referred to intensive outpatient or inpatient treatment. To find out more, click here.
Educating yourself and your loved ones about your disorder and developing a solid support system can be a vital step in managing symptoms of bipolar disorder.
People with bipolar disorder are dangerous. Serious mental illness alone is not a reason to expect someone to be dangerous. People with serious mental illness are often more in danger of hurting themselves than hurting anyone else. That being said, if someone with bipolar is abusing drugs or alcohol it is important to get them help as soon as possible as this could exacerbate symptoms.
Having bipolar is the same as having mood swings. When someone's mood changes suddenly, we sometimes say that they are having a "bipolar" day, but it is important to understand that bipolar disorder is much more severe than experiencing mood swings.
People with bipolar disorder cannot function or live a "normal" life. Many people with bipolar disorder recover and go on to lead independent, functioning lives.
Bipolar episodes always alternate between depression and mania/hypomania. A person with bipolar disorder may experience multiple depressive episodes followed by a manic/hypomanic episode or mixed episode, or any number of other combinations. Episodes do not need to alternate every time in order for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to be made.
This classic memoir is authored by a woman who is not only one of the world's leading experts on bipolar disorder but also lives with this condition herself.
Hosted by bipolar Gabe Howard and schizophrenic Michelle Hammer, this podcast offers a first-hand look into life in recovery from serious mental illness.
Content warning: This podcast contains mature content. It is not appropriate for children. Parents are advised to make an informed decision before allowing teenagers to listen.
Gabe Howard is an active speaker, writer, and mental health advocate. Visit his website for more information on his work, access to his personal blog about living with bipolar disorder, and other resources.
This memoir recounts a young man's struggle with bipolar disorder and how he has come to reconcile his mental illness with God's goodness.
This memoir offers unique insight into one family's legacy of mental illness and one woman's journey from silence to recovery.