Bipolar Disorder: What You Need to Know

Similar to individuals with major depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by sadness, fatigue, loss of enjoyment in everyday routine, disruptions in eating habits and sleep patterns. 

Those with bipolar disorder differ from patients diagnosed with depression because they experience what's called "mania" or hypomania which is defined as emotional highs, bursts of extreme energy and severe irritability that ranges in intensity and duration. 

The National Health Institute of Mental Health says bipolar disorder can result in a 9.2-year reduction in expected life span and approximately 1 in 5 suffers commit suicide. It's a very serious diagnosis and even more importantly are the warning signs so that it is detected early and can be properly treated. 


There are two types of bipolar disorder. The first is Bipolar I which is the classic form of the illness. Those with this type have behavior that quickly escalates until they're out of control. An individual must have manic or mixed episodes that last at least 7 days or manic symptoms that are so extreme an individual requires immediate hospital care. The second is Bipolar II which is 4X more common than Bipolar I and has much less severe manic symptoms and the warning signs can be difficult to pinpoint. It relies much more on loved ones to notice small behavioral changes. 


Seven Signs of Bipolar Mania

  1. Feeling overly happy, “high,” or elated for long stretches of time.
  2. Feeling easily agitated, some describe it as feeling jumpy or twitchy.
  3. Talking super fast, often accompanied by racing thoughts.
  4. Extreme restlessness or impulsivity.
  5. Impaired judgment.
  6. Unrealistic over-confidence in your abilities or powers.
  7. Engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees.

Seven Signs of Bipolar Depression

  1. Feeling sad or hopeless for long periods of time.
  2. Withdrawal from friends and family, and/or a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.
  3. Significant loss or increase in appetite.
  4. Severe fatigue or lack of energy.
  5. Slow speech.
  6. Problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making.
  7. Thoughts or attempts of suicide, or preoccupation with death.

Many experts believe the underlying causes of bipolar disorder are convoluted since the exact biological mechanisms are unknown. But some say its a combination of nature v. nurture. Research suggest that 60% of bipolar disorders are hereditary. Other factors also contribute including biological differences in the brain and an imbalance of chemicals called neurotransmitters and hormones. 

Bipolar disorder is equally prevalent in men and women, although studies indicate it might affect each both genders differently. For example, women tend to have more depressive features, while men experience more manic features.