Understanding Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo

Bipolar Disorder, a mental health condition marked by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels, affects millions of people worldwide. In this article, we explore the multifaceted aspects of this disorder, from the intense highs of mania to the debilitating lows of depression. By reading expert knowledge, we seek to illuminate the complexities of bipolar disorder, highlight its impact on daily life, and discuss the most effective strategies for managing and treating this challenging condition.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three types of bipolar disorder:

  1. Bipolar I disorder: Is defined by manic episodes that last for at least 7 days (nearly every day for most of the day) or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate medical care.
  2. Bipolar II disorder: is defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes. The hypomanic episodes are less severe than the manic episodes in bipolar I disorder.
  3. Cyclothymic disorder: (also called cyclothymia) is defined by recurring hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are not intense enough or do not last long enough to qualify as hypomanic or depressive episodes.

NHS determines that some symptoms are:

Feeling sad, hopeless or irritable most of the time.Lacking energy. Difficulty concentrating and remembering things.Loss of interest in everyday activities.Feelings of emptiness or worthlessness. Feelings of guilt and despair.Feeling pessimistic about everything.Self-doubt.Being delusional, hallucinating and disturbing or illogical thinking.Lack of appetite. Difficulty sleeping.Waking up early.Suicidal thoughts.Feeling very happy, elated or overjoyed.Talking very quickly.Feeling full of energy.Feeling self-important.Feeling full of great new ideas and having important plans.Being easily irritated or agitated.Being delusional, hallucinating and disturbing or illogical thinking.Not feeling like sleeping.Doing things that often have disastrous consequences -such as spending large sums of money on expensive and sometimes unaffordable items.Making decisions or saying things that are out of character and that others see as being risky or harmful.

What are the types of classification of bipolar disorders? According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are 3:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder: Is diagnosed when a person experiences a manic episode. During a manic episode, people with bipolar I disorder experience an extreme increase in energy and mood changes, including feeling extremely happy or uncomfortably irritable. Some people with bipolar disorder also experience depressive or hypomanic episodes, and most people with bipolar I disorder also have periods of neutral mood.
  2. Bipolar II Disorder: they must have at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode. With bipolar II, it is common that people return to their usual functioning between episodes. People with bipolar II disorder often first seek treatment as a result of their depressive episodes, since hypomanic episodes often feel pleasurable and can even increase performance at work or school.
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder: is a milder form of bipolar disorder involving many “mood swings”, with hypomania and depressive symptoms that occur frequently. People with cyclothymic experience emotional ups and downs but with less severe symptoms than bipolar I or II disorder.

“No one knows exactly what causes bipolar disorder. Research suggest that a combination of factors could increase your chance of developing it. This includes psychical, environmental and social conditions: Childhood trauma, stressful life events, brain chemistry, family links, medication, drugs and alcohol.”

According to Mayo Clinic, “treatment is best guided by a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions (psychiatrist) who is skilled in treating bipolar and related disorders. You may have a treatment team that also includes a psychologist, social worker and psychiatric nurse. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. Treatment is directed at managing symptoms. Depending on you needs, treatments may include: medications, continued treatment, day treatment programs, substance abuse treatment, hospitalization.”

To sum up, bipolar disorder is a multifaceted mental health condition that demands a nuanced understanding and approach. The wide spectrum of symptoms, ranging from manic highs to depressive lows, underscores the need for personalized and ongoing treatment plans. Recognizing the various types of bipolar disorder and their unique manifestations is key to providing appropriate care. With the right support system, as Neighbors’ Consejo do, including medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments, individuals with bipolar disorder can manage their symptoms and achieve a better quality of life.


Bipolar disorder – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355961

Bipolar Disorder – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder.  

«Bipolar Disorder – Symptoms and Causes». Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355955.

«Symptoms – Bipolar Disorder». Nhs.Uk, https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/bipolar-disorder/symptoms/.

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