Bipolar Disorder: Causes & Symptoms

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One of the most complex and misunderstood mental disorders is bipolar disorder and it affects 1-3% of the global population at one point in their life or another.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because it is characterized by unpredictable and seemingly uncontrollable swings between periods of good moods and depression. Extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep patterns may be observed in this disorder. While many people focus on the negative (depression) side of this disorder, the heightened mood is often a state of mania, which can even include psychosis. When bipolar disorder is particularly pronounced, it can even require hospitalization to protect the patients from harming others, and themselves.


There are different classifications of bipolar disorder, which are defined by the type and volume of bipolar episodes, and formal treatment varies depending on the diagnosis.

  • Bipolar I Disorder – Severe manic symptoms that require hospitalization, or heavy manic episodes that last up to a week. Usually, the depressive episodes typically last at least two weeks.
  • Bipolar II Disorder – While this type might not have the full-blown manic episodes like the type above, this kind is also defined by episodes of depression and hypomanic behavior.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia) – This is defined by multiple episodes of depression that can last for a minimum of 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms might not be clearly diagnosed as a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
  • Other Bipolar and Related Disorders 


While the disorder remains a puzzle in some ways for researchers, studies have identified environmental, physiological, neurological, and genetic causes for the condition. Family history, traumatic childhood experiences, improper diet, and self-care, or brain structure abnormalities can all result in this challenging and painful condition.


Sufferers report periods of elation and hyper-awareness, followed by depressive periods where poor self-esteem, inability to socially engage and suicidal thoughts are common.

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