What Is Bipolar Disorder?

What is Bipolar Disorder? When does this happen in your life? What does it feel like? What are some causes? When does it show up? How does it affect us? What are the results of this? Lets YAC about it!
Defined by the Mayo Clinic:
"Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression)."

So.. What Does This Mean?
Bipolar Disorder is classified under three main types and like many other illnesses, it varies greatly between different people. Manic or mania is a term used to describe a heightened sense of confidence, energy, and excitedness. People diagnosed with Bipolar I will experience these feelings some of the time. You could also experience a milder form of mania called hypomania. People with Bipolar II and Cyclothymia will experience these feelings some of the time. While Depressive is used to describe negative mood changes and a loss of energy or desire to do activities originally enjoyed. Bipolar I, II, and Cyclothymic diagnoses will experience depressive episodes some of the time. Bipolar affects more than just mood. Depending on what type of Bipolar you're diagnosed with you could experience episodes of mania, depression or both. Bipolar can also be induced by other illnesses and substance use. Regardless, it's essential to have proper treatment and support to help continue a less interrupted life. 

Types of Bipolar:

Bipolar I Disorder 
Bipolar I is associated with manic episodes that can last up to a week. Usually people with Bipolar I also experience a depressive episode. They can also have mixed episodes occur when they manic and depressive episodes overlap. 

Bipolar II Disorder 
Bipolar II is directly associated with major depressive episodes. People diagnosed with Bipolar II do not experience manic episodes, instead, they may experience hypomania.

Cyclothymia does not present itself in as severe of a form as mania or depression. Instead, people with Cyclothymia will experience many periods of both hypomania and mild depression symptoms for at least two years.

Other Types
This category is used when Bipolar presents itself in a non-classified way or is aggravated by substance or other illnesses.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Shockingly (can you feel my sarcasm) there is no exact known cause for Bipolar Disorder. One of the possible causes is genetics, although they haven't found a gene yet, Bipolar is more common in people who have an immediate family member. Research has also shown people who have been diagnosed with Bipolar appear to have physical changes to their brain; though they still don't know what these changes mean. Other research points to neurotransmitter imbalances, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol all as causes for Bipolar. It doesn't seem as though a singular thing is causing Bipolar, your environment or triggers can also affect Bipolar. These triggers come in the form of medications, stress, substance use, lack of sleep etc.

What Are The Symptoms?

Manic Episodes
  • Feeling unusually “high” and optimistic
  • Jumpy or wired
  • Agitated, irritable or touchy
  • Impaired judgment and impulsiveness
  • Extreme confidence in one's abilities or powers
  • Little sleep, but still very energetic
  • Talking so fast others can’t keep up
  • Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next
  • Easily distracted, can't concentrate
  • Doing reckless or risky things and not caring about consequences
  • Experience psychotic symptoms like delusions or hallucinations
Depressive Episodes
  • Feel very sad, down, empty, worried, or hopeless
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Irritable or restless
  • Little energy and decreased activity, feeling "slowed down"
  • Troubles with sleep, either too much or too little
  • Don't find enjoyment in things, even previously enjoyed hobbies
  • Trouble concentrating, indecisive, forgetful
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Suicidal thoughts


Seeking treatment and help from a medical professional can increase the control you have over your episodes and symptoms. Medication is usuall prescribed either as an antidepressant, antipsychotic or mood stabilizer. Like many mental illness medications, it may take a few different trials of different medications before deciding on one that works best for you. Work closely with your doctor if you're thinking of changing or stopping the medication. Psychotherapy or talk therapy can be extremely effective. It can take the form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help identify your triggers and how to manage your different episodes. Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT) to help establish a routine and focus on how these regularities can help your Bipolar symptoms. Psychoeducation to help you learn more and understand more about what you're going through, this is also beneficial for your support system to go through. Family-focused Therapy so you can create a well-informed and understanding support to help you manage your symptoms, identify warning signs and keep track of your treatment plan. Different supplements can be helpful as well especially to manage certain symptoms like sleep etc. Keep a Journal your triggers may change, your environment may change, and it's important to keep track of your feelings as well as your physicality and what's going on around you to help better understand what could be causing certain symptoms and deciding whether your treatment plan is working best for you. 

Let's YAC About It!
It's time to break down the barriers and end the stigma surrounding mental health. If you live with mental illness or just want to chat, our comments and inboxes are always open. We strongly believe in the value of sharing our experiences + stories in hopes even one person knows they're not alone. We will be following up this blog with different resources to help you work through your Bipolar Disorder or be there for those going through it. Thank you again for everyone who got to this point- and again, don't be afraid to YAC about it!

Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals and are not able to provide licensed medical advice. This is a platform to relay information and share about mental illness. 

1. NIMH » Bipolar Disorder. (2019). Nimh.nih.gov. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml
2. Bipolar disorder - Diagnosis and treatment - Mayo Clinic. (2019). Mayoclinic.org. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355961
3. Bipolar Disorder Signs and Symptoms. (2018). HelpGuide.org. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/bipolar-disorder/bipolar-disorder-signs-and-symptoms.htm/
4. The DSM-5 Updated How Bipolar Disorder Is Diagnosed. (2019). Verywell Mind. Retrieved 3 May 2019, from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-dsm-5-379955


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