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Bipolar Disorder Symptoms, Causes, Types, And Diagnosis

As of 2019, the World Health Organization estimates that 40 million adults worldwide live with different types of bipolar disorders.

Moreover, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5.7 million adult Americans, about 2.6% of the population, are severely affected by bipolar disorder annually.

Considering the widespread prevalence of this mental illness across the world, it is essential to know what the disorder means, how it manifests, its common signs and symptoms, and ways to diagnose it correctly for an effective treatment.

We will cover all the details of bipolar disorder in this article.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

What is Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by bouts of depression alternated with intervals of mania or manic episodes.

Persistent feelings of emptiness and sadness mark the phase of depression. This constant low mood is characterized by a lack of pleasure or interest in your everyday routine and activities.

The period of acute mania in bipolar disorder is characterized by varying intensities of moody episodes, including increased impulsivity, increased recklessness, extremes like too much excitement or extreme irritability, and more.

You can also experience a confused state of mind with outbreaks of mania and depression followed by acute major depressive episodes generally characterized by sleeping problems, restlessness, extreme weight loss, constant guilt-tripping, lack of concentration, suicidal thoughts, and more.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

More than two-thirds of those who have been suffering from bipolar disorder also have someone from their family with the same illness or other severe mental disorders, particularly depression. This suggests a genetic link as one of the primary causes of bipolar disorder.

The root cause of bipolar disorders is not clearly known, but data-backed research states that both environmental and hereditary factors have a role.

Here are the primary causes:

  • Genetics, generally if one of your parents is bipolar
  • Severe emotional strain due to external factors
  • Effect of Past Trauma
  • Past illnesses
  • Abnormalities in brain chemistry and function

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Types of Bipolar Disorder

This section covers the different types of bipolar disorders.

1. Bipolar I Disorder

Frequent episodes of mania are one of the best ways to diagnose this disorder. You may also experience bouts of depression or hypomania without any warning signs.

If your bipolar disorder falls in this category, your emotional state may oscillate between extreme irritation or boundless excitement during a manic episode.

2. Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is characterized by hypomanic and depressive bouts that are generally not followed by intense manic episodes. It is quite similar to Bipolar I, but it is less severe.

3. Cyclothymic Disorder

This is an even milder form of bipolar disorder characterized by fluctuating mood that is less extreme than Bipolar I and Bipolar II conditions. You may experience hypomania and depressive symptoms without going through full-blown extended episodes.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

If you have bipolar disorder, you may experience significant highs and lows in your emotional states. These mood swings can oscillate from mild to severe and can also be accompanied by a wide range of psychotic signs.

The psychotic symptoms may include hallucinations which cause you to perceive information that is not there despite its apparent reality.

So, if you have severe bipolar disorder, you may experience such episodes frequently wherein it is possible to have distorted perceptions of the external world that are both unrealistic and convincing enough.

General Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The other commonly observed symptoms are as follows:

  • Poor self-esteem
  • Constant feelings of sadness and worthlessness
  • Frequent irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor energy levels
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Suddenly elevated levels of activity and excitement
  • Manic depression causes impulsive behavior

Depending on the stage of the illness and the type of episode experienced, your signs and symptoms may vary.

The Stage of Mania

For instance, you might experience the following symptoms when you hit the manic phase:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Excessive energy levels
  • Reckless behavior such as rash driving, road rage, gambling, and unsafe sexual activities
  • Heightened tendency to engage in aggressive fights
  • Delusional behavior in extreme cases
  • Poor decision-making abilities

The Stage of Hypomania

The hypomania phase includes feelings of positive energy and productiveness. You can function normally and go about your day with positive vibes. This stage can either transition to manic episodes or severe depression.

The Stage of Bipolar Depression

The next stage is called the stage of bipolar depression, which is way different than normal clinical depression that can usually be addressed via antidepressants.

Unfortunately, in the case of depression triggered by bipolar disorder, antidepressants can be counter-productive and may actually aggravate the symptoms. This can cause the onset of new depressive episodes and affect your treatment protocol.

Here are the key signs of bipolar depression:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Constant feeling of emptiness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities
  • Weight loss and appetite loss
  • A perpetual feeling of guilt
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling physically and emotionally drained at all times

You may also go through a couple of mixed emotions and episodes in case of both hypomania and depression hitting you simultaneously. Depressive signs characterized by extreme anxiety, sleeplessness, and agitation are typical of a mixed bipolar episode.

This is generally considered a dangerous phase as you are more likely to experience intense suicidal thoughts. And are at a higher risk of causing physical harm to yourself or others around you.

You should regularly keep a watchful eye on the symptoms to understand how they are developing so you can control them in a better way.

Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

Unfortunately, many patients suffering from bipolar disorder fail to seek appropriate treatment due to either of two reasons:

  • They feel ashamed of admitting they are bipolar because of the stigma around mental illnesses.
  • They fail to recognize the severity of the disorder and the negative impact it creates on their emotional stability affecting their personal as well as professional lives.

It may be helpful for you to know that you are not alone and ample assistance is available to help you manage bipolar disorder effectively. You can easily lead a normal, peaceful life, just like others.

Remember, the feelings of extreme euphoria are short-lived. While you may enjoy that state of emotion because it makes you feel happier and more productive, it can, unfortunately, trigger a huge emotional fall after the happy phase is over.

This can leave you frustrated and exhausted, worsening your personal/professional difficulties. So, it is essential to schedule regular visits with your doctor and psychiatrist if you spot any major signs of bipolar disorder.

Getting the right treatment involving mental therapy, medication, or both from mental health practitioners specializing in treating bipolar disorder can significantly alleviate negative symptoms. And this can go a long way in improving your mental health sustainably.


In terms of global disability prevalence, bipolar disorder ranks sixth on the index, according to the World Health Organization. Therefore, sincere efforts in the right direction and maximum awareness are a must to reduce the prevalence and associated risks.

Severe cases of bipolar disorder might involve dependence on medication. But psychotherapy, regular exercise, a proper diet, the right company, and self-help techniques are equally crucial to support your treatment for positive outcomes.

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