Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health disorder where a person experiences extreme mood swings, erratic thought patterns, and behaviors. Someone with bipolar disorder commonly swings from feeling up and happy, to low and sad. They go through periods of depression and mania.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

This is a serious disorder that can develop from a combination of genetic and biological factors, as well as circumstantial events.

Just like most mood disorders, there is not one known definite cause of bipolar disorder. However, it is believed that it often results from a combination of genetic predisposition, biological causes brought by brain abnormalities, and traumatic life conditions. People diagnosed with bipolar disorder may fall under one or more of these preconditions.

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder show imbalances in their brain neurotransmitters or hormones, resulting in impaired brain function. A study determined that bipolar disorder was more common in people with family members who also had the same disorder.

The source said, ‘The results of our study support the fact that a significant relationship exists between the degree of kinship and the heritability of bipolar disorder and, furthermore, that the effect of the maternal and paternal sides is similar on the transmission of genetic susceptibility.’

Also, just like other mood disorders, there are associations between traumatic life events such as abuse and loss, that can trigger the onset of bipolar.

Bipolar I Disorder and Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar I Disorder is made up of one manic episode, followed by either hypomania or depression. In some cases, the manic episode may trigger psychosis.

Bipolar II Disorder is made up of one major depression episode accompanied by at least one hypomanic episode.

The manic episodes of Bipolar I Disorder type can be dangerous and severe. Bipolar II Disorder is a milder form of this disorder, but people with this condition can experience depression for a long time.

Signs and Symptoms to Watch For

Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder are major shifts in mood, behaviors, energy levels, and sleeping patterns. The swings in mood can vary extremely causing unstable moods on several occasions.

Depressive Mood Episode Signs and Symptoms

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness.
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt.
  • Weight loss, even though they are not on a diet, or weight gain.
  • Loss of interest in any of their hobbies or favorite activities.
  • Poor sleep habits. For example, they may have the inability to sleep, and develop insomnia. Or they may have problems oversleeping.
  • Loss of energy and feeling fatigued a lot of the time.
  • Inability to think and concentrate.
  • Inability to make a decision.
  • Thoughts of suicide when extremely depressed.

Mania and Hypomania Signs and Symptoms

  • Having lots of energy and being too exuberant.
  • Very little need for sleep.
  • Unusual upbeat mood or euphoria.
  • Being unusually talkative or loud.
  • Heightened irritability.
  • Poor decision-making and judgment.
  • Impulsive and reckless behaviors.
  • Talking fast because of racing thoughts.
  • Becoming easily distracted as their thoughts can’t stay focused.

In some cases, a manic episode can trigger a person to take a break from reality. This is a condition known as psychosis and could require them to be hospitalized for safety reasons.

Treating Bipolar Disorder

An early diagnosis is important and key in helping the individual. Most cases begin early in life. For example, it can develop in childhood, adolescence, or before a person reaches 25 years of age. Bipolar symptoms vary in severity.

Treating bipolar disorder is best done with the guidance of someone who specializes in the treatment of mental health illnesses. As it is a lifelong condition similar to other chronic illnesses, symptoms must be managed very carefully throughout a person’s life.

Treatments include therapies and medications. Medications are taken to help manage mood shifts and are not a one-time thing. Skipping medications is not recommended for patients diagnosed with this condition as it can trigger a relapse of the symptoms.

Psychotherapy is also key to regulating a patient’s symptoms throughout their life. Finding the right support is helpful for a diagnosed individual’s well-being which may include proper education and being part of a supportive family or group. Therapy and proper lifestyle changes are needed to help make the person’s life a calm and happy life.