What You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

Everyone has experienced down days, perhaps at work, school, or home. Still, most people typically bounce back. Other individuals may struggle with depression but usually begin to feel better upon treatment. However, some individuals experience sudden mood changes that cycle from severe depression to extreme happiness, possibly lasting for months. So, what is the cause? It is a treatable condition known as bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health condition that can impact one’s judgement, behaviour, and decision-making ability and requires treatment. A person’s mood can suddenly shift from incredibly low (depression) to extremely high (mania or hypomania). These high and low cycles can occur several times throughout the year or minimally, with stable periods in between for some. For instance, some people with severe bipolar depression struggle to get out of bed for weeks. But once they become manic/hypomanic, they stay up for days. After that, they may go through another bout of depression or experience stability between episodes.

What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Mania is a period of elevated moods that can lead to hypomania and depression. These episodes can last from days to weeks to months. In contrast, hypomania consists of one major depressive and one hypomanic episode without any mania. These episodes typically last no more than four days but are no less debilitating than mania.

Symptoms of mania or hypomania can include:

  • Increased irritability, energy, or aggression
  • Flight of ideas (frequently switching from one idea to the next)
  • Grandiosity (an unrealistic sense of superiority)
  • Euphoria (an exaggerated sense of happiness and well-being)
  • Risky behavior (drinking and driving or multiple sex partners)
  • Racing thoughts
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Difficulty making decisions

In addition, individuals with mania can experience psychotic episodes.

Bipolar depression is the same as major depressive disorder (MDD) in that it can severely impact one’s everyday functioning at work, school, or home. Symptoms must occur daily for at least two weeks to receive this diagnosis, but they can last for months.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Change of appetite (weight gain or loss)
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Sleep disturbances (too little or too much sleep)
  • Feeling hopeless or helpless
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or shame
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Some people may also experience mixed episodes where depression and mania both occur at the same time. In other words, they may feel sad or lonely and irritable or angry all at once.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

The causes of bipolar disorder are genetic, environmental, and chemical imbalances in the brain.

Genetic – No specific gene for bipolar disorder puts a person at risk of developing the condition. However, some passed-down genes can affect mood regulation. In addition, bipolar disorder is ten times more likely to be inherited than most mental health conditions. Therefore, individuals with parents or siblings diagnosed with it are more at risk. Although, some twin studies have shown how one sibling can inherit the disorder while the other doesn’t. 

Environmental – Individuals who’ve experienced childhood trauma may be more at risk of developing bipolar disorder. For example, children who’ve been abused or neglected are more vulnerable. Plus, it puts them at greater risk if they’ve experienced childhood trauma and have a genetic predisposition (family history).

Chemical imbalances – Scientists believe bipolar disorder results from smaller brain regions and chemical changes in the brain. Not to mention that brain imaging has shown structural changes in the brain. The body may also struggle to produce and break down certain chemicals and hormones, thus affecting their moods and causing changes in thinking.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Because bipolar disorder is a lifetime condition, long-term treatment may be necessary—two of the most effective methods being medication and therapy.

Medication Although medication doesn’t cure bipolar disorder, it can help stabilise one’s moods and prevent them from cycling as frequently. The most commonly prescribed is a mood stabiliser. A prescriber may also add an antidepressant, but if taken alone can trigger a manic episode. Therefore, this is why receiving the correct diagnosis is important.

The most commonly prescribed medication for bipolar disorder is a mood stabiliser. A prescriber may also add an antidepressant, but if taken alone can trigger a manic episode. Therefore, this is why receiving the correct diagnosis is important.

Therapy – Medication by itself is not enough to treat bipolar disorder. So, in other words, medication can balance one’s moods, but it won’t get to the origin of the issues. In contrast, talk therapy will address these root issues and is necessary to add to the regimen.

Therapy offers education by helping clients recognise their cycles, reduce the frequency of episodes, and better cope and manage their moods. It can also minimise distorted thinking or behavioural patterns and improve relationships impacted by the client’s condition.

Support For Bipolar Disorder

In addition to medication and therapy, support for individuals with bipolar disorder can make all the difference. It can help you feel not alone and is a great way to learn by listening to how others manage. One such place for support is Barty’s Adventures. They hold special events and adventures to help men feel better about themselves by keeping active, thus improving mental health. Barty – We Are A Mental Health Initiative

Hope Is Real

Living with bipolar disorder may be difficult, but people can learn to live meaningfully and purposefully with the proper support and treatment. They can also lead just as productive lives as anyone and, upon discovery, will hopefully realise that hope is real.

Why Not Try Online Therapy?

Hopefully, these points could give some comfort, but sometimes just reading quotes isn’t enough. Online therapy can be a great option if you or a loved one is looking for more support.

Therapy through BetterHelp.com/Barty can be more affordable than traditional therapy and allows many options to communicate with your therapist from the comfort of your home. Most importantly, remember that it is okay not to be okay, and you are no less of a human for feeling your emotions and being vulnerable.

To receive 25% off your first month, head to BetterHelp.com/Barty

Feel free to drop by if you’d like to chat and just say, ‘Hey Barty,‘ in strict confidence, and you can be anonymous if you wish. Or do not hesitate to leave a question in the comments section below at any time.

Sandy Glover


Sandy is the resident mental health professional at Barty. She previously worked as a therapist, earning a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in counselling. Sandy has transitioned to becoming a peer presenter at several mental health settings through NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Her passion for mental health is evident in her writing as a subject matter expert who draws from personal experience, professional expertise, and education to help eliminate stigma.

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