What is Bipolar Disorder?

what is bipolar disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “An estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.”[1]

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by mood swings combined with shifts in energy and activity levels that cause you to have a difficult time functioning in your daily life. The mood swings associated with this disorder often last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. For example, you may experience mania for an extended period and then switch to a depressive episode that lasts for several weeks.

When you are experiencing the effects of bipolar disorder without proper treatment, carrying out seemingly normal daily activities can feel impossible. When you are in a manic episode, you may engage in impulsive behaviors that put you in dangerous situations. On the other hand, depressive episodes can render you unable to complete responsibilities and lack interest in previously beloved activities.

Understanding what bipolar disorder is and how it can affect your life could motivate you to seek the professional help you need.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three different types of bipolar disorder, each one causing a different combination of symptoms. However, each type involves marked changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. The changes in mood range from periods of mania which are characterized by high levels of energy, irritability, and elation, to depressive episodes that will cause you to feel down, hopeless, and lacking in energy.

The three types of bipolar disorder include:

  • Bipolar 1 – This type of bipolar disorder is diagnosed if you experience manic episodes that last at least 7 days or struggle with severe symptoms of mania that require hospitalization. Additionally, your depressive episodes will typically last at least two weeks. Some people with bipolar 1 disorder will have mixed episodes, which means you are experiencing both the symptoms of mania and depression in the same period.
  • Bipolar 2 – If you have this type of bipolar disorder, the symptoms of mania you experience will be less severe than those with bipolar 1. Because of this, your manic episodes are referred to as “hypomania”. Commonly, people with this condition experience more frequent and intense episodes of depression.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder – This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by recurrent hypomanic and depressive symptoms that do not last long enough to qualify as episodes. In other words, if you have cyclothymia you experience the common symptoms of bipolar disorder but do not meet the criteria to be diagnosed with bipolar 1 or 2.

Bipolar disorder is often diagnosed in your teenage years or early adulthood. The symptoms of this disorder can appear in childhood, however, children cannot be diagnosed with this condition due to the possibility of the symptoms being related to other mental health conditions. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that cannot be cured, however, your symptoms can be managed with professional treatment.

The Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

When you have bipolar disorder you will experience unusual shifts in mood. Oftentimes, it can be difficult to pinpoint the reasoning behind your mood changes. This is because mood episodes often happen suddenly and for no apparent reason.

It is important to note that you can unintentionally trigger mania. While manic episodes can occur out of nowhere, getting too little sleep or experiencing changes in your daily routine can cause a manic episode to begin. Because of this, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and routine is an imperative aspect of treating your condition.

Manic Symptoms

Manic symptoms will occur when you are in a manic or hypomanic episode. Manic episodes are more severe than hypomania, often causing more noticeable issues at work, school, and in relationships. Sometimes manic episodes can cause you to experience episodes of psychosis that require hospitalization.

Manic and hypomanic episodes will include three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Increased energy and activity levels
  • Agitation, irritable mood, or jumpiness
  • An exaggerated sense of well-being and self-importance
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Being unusually talkative
  • Racing thoughts
  • Being easily distracted
  • Poor decision-making caused by impulsive behavior (increased spending, sexual risks, or substance abuse)

Sometimes people believe that they enjoy their manic episodes, despite experiencing the consequences of the impulsive behaviors they display. This is because the euphoria associated with mania can make you feel overjoyed, even in the face of danger or difficult situations. It is important to continue treating your bipolar disorder, even during manic or hypomanic episodes to prevent yourself from experiencing the severe symptoms of mania.

Depressive Symptoms

Depressive episodes can include extremely severe symptoms of major depressive disorder. These symptoms can make it difficult for you to engage in day-to-day activities like school, work, or social activities.

Depressive episodes of bipolar disorder include five or more of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Feeling little to no pleasure at all
  • Experiencing significant weight loss or gain that is not intended
  • Having insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Restlessness or markedly slow behavior
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Self-harming behaviors and actions
  • Decreased ability to concentrate and being indecisive
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
  • Thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide

According to the National Library of Medicine, “Researchers estimate that between 25% and 60% of individuals with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide at least once in their lives and between 4% and 19% will complete suicide.”[2]

Because of the risk of suicide associated with this condition, receiving professional treatment is extremely important. This disorder can be managed with a combination of evidence-based therapy and medications that help stabilize mood, preventing severe manic and depressive episodes.

Finding Help for Bipolar Disorder

If you or a loved one have experienced the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it’s time to seek professional help. Untreated mental illness can lead to an array of issues such as an inability to function in your daily life, self-medication that causes the development of an addiction, and suicide attempts. Because of this, receiving professional treatment is vital to increasing your quality of life.

For more information on how to receive mental health treatment, contact Florida Recovery Group today. We can provide you with the tools you need to learn how to manage your symptoms and live a stress-free life.


  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4536929/