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Understanding Bipolar Disorder


Manic Depressive Disorder also know as Bipolar Disorder is associated with feelings of hopelessness to feelings of euphoria and full of energy. These mood shifts can occur a couple of times a year or many times a day. It usually develops in late teens to early adulthood. Bipolar disorder is divided into subtypes. They include:

1) Bipolar I Disorder: Mood swings that can cause difficulty with your job or personal relationships. The manic episodes associated with Bipolar I can be severe and dangerous.

2) Bipolar II Disorder: You can carry on with your daily functioning even though you may experience elevated mood or changes in your functioning. You experience hypomania in Bipolar II which is a less severe form of mania. Depression usually lasts longer than hypomania in Bipolar II and is less severe than Bipolar I.

3) Cyclothymic Disorder: Hypomania and depression are present and can be disruptive but the highs and lows are not as severe as in the other two types of Bipolar disorders.

Some of the signs and symptoms of manic phase are listed below. A manic episode can last for a week or less and at least three or more of the following symptoms need to be present:

  • racing thoughts
  • grandiosity
  • decreased need for sleep
  • excessive spending or spending sprees
  • rapid speech
  • risky behavior
  • poor judgement
  • agitation
  • increased physical activity

The mood disturbance must be severe enough to cause difficulty at work or school or social activities.

Some of the signs and symptoms of hypomanic phase are listed below. A hypomanic episode lasts at least four days and three or more if the following must be present:

  • decreased need for sleep
  • elevated self esteem
  • racing thoughts
  • rapid speech
  • distractibility

The mood must be severe enough to cause a noticeable change in functioning and it isn’t severe enough to cause difficulty with work, school or social activities.

Some of the signs and symptoms of the depressive phase include:

  • hopelessness
  • suicidal ideation
  • sleep problems
  • problems concentrating
  • loss of interest in activities
  • poor performance in job or school
  • low appetite or increase appetite

The exact cause of bipolar disorder are unknown however several factors may be involved in triggering bipolar disorder:

  • Environment-traumatic experiences, abuse, periods of high stress may play a role
  • inherited traits-it is more common in blood related individuals who have the condition.
  • neurotransmitters-an imbalance in brain chemicals

Bipolar disorder cannot be cured but can be treated effectively. Long term treatment is needed to control symptoms and gain better control of their mood and symptoms. An effective treatment plan includes medications and talk therapy. If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder it is important to get the proper treatment. Learn as much as you can about the disorder and offer support and patience. You can learn more about Bipolar Disorder at

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Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Helen Nieves

Helen Nieves is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Attention Deficit Consultant Specialist. She teaches ADHD on line and is on the Advisory Board at The American Institute of Health Care Professionals. She also received advanced training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and in Grief Counseling.

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APA Reference
Nieves, H. (2015). Understanding Bipolar Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Apr 2015
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