What is Bipolar Disorder?


What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that causes extremely high points in mood and energy (mania) prefaced or followed by extremely low, depressive states (depression). These uncontrollable mood swings have a severe impact on the lives of those who live with the disorder. To put the numbers into perspective, more than 3.3 million American adults (1.7% of the population) will suffer from Bipolar Disorder in any given year, [1] and an estimated 4.4% will experience the disorder at some point in their lives. [2]

A Bipolar diagnosis does not necessarily mean that a person is highly emotional, but refers to the extended periods of abnormally high energy, to prolonged depressed states, with periods of normalcy in between. The disorder can be extremely disruptive for those who suffer, family members, and friends due to the emotional fluctuations and randomness of their occurrences. The disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. Bipolar disorder is typically hard to recognize and can go years without being properly diagnosed. Although there is currently not a cure, Bipolar is very treatable and manageable through a combination of talk therapy, healthy living, and in some cases medication. 

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, but can be triggered by environmental factors like distressing or traumatic events. Brain development and neurotransmitter structure are also thought to play a role in the development of the disorder. 

What are the Symptoms?

Bipolar is notoriously hard to diagnose. The manic episodes that cause a person to have a high level of energy and impulsiveness often feel good to the individual, which may lead to denial that a problem exists. It's symptoms may also appear to be part of another concern such as substance abuse, poor school performance, or difficulties at work. The symptoms vary depending on whether the individual is in mania or depression. 


Abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired

Increased activity, energy or agitation

Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)

Decreased need for sleep

Unusual talkativeness

Racing thoughts


Poor decision-making


Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty, hopeless or irritable

Marked loss of interest in hobbies or activities

Significant weight loss, weight gain, or fluctuation in appetite

Either insomnia or sleeping too much

Either restlessness or slowed behavior

Fatigue or loss of energy

Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

Decreased ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness

Thinking about, planning or attempting suicide

If you or a loved on is experiencing symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, it may be beneficial to seek an evaluation. Visit our website below to learn more about working with one of our therapists.