What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is characterized by changes in mood, energy, and ability to function. Most people experience these types of changes, but those with bipolar disorder experience them at an intense level and typically during certain periods called mood episodes. Those who battle bipolar disorder experience mood episodes that can take days to weeks, moving between the two extremes known as the manic or hypomanic state (happy or irritable) and the depressive state (sad).

There are three types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder. Those with bipolar I often have other mental disorders, including substance abuse disorder. The risk of suicide for those with type I is higher than that of the general population. 

The average onset is 25 years of age. 

How do I know if I have bipolar disorder?
To be diagnosed with bipolar I, you must have experienced a manic episode. This is an extreme increase in energy that lasts at least one week. The following behaviors are typical during a manic episode:

  • Talking more or faster
  • Having racing thoughts; changing topics quickly
  • Having false beliefs and or hallucinations (psychosis)
  • Exhibiting risky behavior such as reckless driving or spending
  • Sleeping less and not feeling tired

These behaviors have to be severe enough to cause dysfunction in your everyday life, and they require immediate care. 

Some people with bipolar I will experience hypomanic episodes which are less severe and last four days in a row. The symptoms with hypomania do not result in significant disruption in daily life. 

For bipolar II, you must have at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. Because a hypomanic episode often feels like a positive experience, people are only likely to seek help because of their depressive episode. 

Those who battle cyclothymic disorder experience a milder form of bipolar disorder with many, frequent mood swings. A diagnosis can be given once someone has experienced these swings for at least two years. During these two years, the symptoms should have lasted half the time and not have stopped for more than two months.


What is causing my bipolar disorder?
A brain imbalance is believed to be the cause of bipolar disorder. It is also largely genetic, with 80-90% of patients having a relative with bipolar disorder or depression. Experiencing trauma leaves the more vulnerable susceptible to environmental factors, such as stress and sleep disruption, which can trigger mood episodes. Taking drugs or alcohol can do the same.

What treatment is available for bipolar disorder?
Those with bipolar disorder are able to lead a full, highly functioning life with the help of the following treatments:

  • Medication: mood stabilizers are most commonly prescribed for bipolar disorder and can help to correct the imbalances in brain signaling. Medication cannot cure bipolar disorder as it is a chronic condition that reoccurs but can be made manageable with the right dose of the right medication (or combination of drugs). 
  • Psychotherapy: psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can help one process the trauma that has contributed to the disorder. Talking with someone can also help with adhering to medication and learning more about your disorder. The more you understand your disorder, the better you are able to anticipate or control episodes when they arise. Talk therapy can also help reduce the stress of cycling.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): this treatment is reserved for when medication and  psychotherapy are not enough to provide relief. ECT is a treatment that creates mini seizures which help to rework neural pathways and alleviate symptoms. ECT includes multiple rounds of short electrical currents applied to the scalp while one is under anesthesia.

If you are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, consider making an appointment and speaking with one of our licensed providers. 

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