Bipolar Disorder TreatmentMost people are used to a shift in moods. It is normal to be happy then experience sadness or vice versa. For some, these peaks and valleys are unusual and extreme. And instead of a fleeting moment, the highs and lows last for days or weeks. If this happens, the person may be experiencing symptoms from bipolar disorder. Mood swings are ordinary yet those with bipolar disorder have intense mood swings that are out of the realm of what someone else may experience.

Also known as being manic depressive, a person with bipolar disorder will experience high highs and low lows. This brain disorder causes extreme shifts in energy, mood, activity levels and even the ability to do normal, everyday things. While bipolar disorder is something that cannot be cured, there is effective treatment.

Here is everything you need to know about bipolar disorder and its treatment. What it is, what causes it, the symptoms, and how it is treated.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a disorder where a person has an extended period of moods that are very high or extremely low. It does not mean that the person is emotional or constantly shifting moods. Instead, these highs and lows last for an extended amount of time. There are four types of bipolar disorder and each one have the same type of highs and lows but differ in varying ways.

Bipolar I Disorder

This one is defined by a couple of things. Either manic episodes severe enough for hospitalization or those that last at least a week. This type of bipolar disorder is typically a couple of weeks long and it is possible that the person has manic symptoms as well as depression lasting for the duration.

Bipolar II Disorder

In bipolar II disorder, it is definitive of a pattern of hypomanic and depressive events but is not as severe as bipolar I disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)

In this type of bipolar disorder, the hypomanic and depressive symptoms last for at least a couple of years. A person with this type may have multiple episodes. Yet, this one is not as severe as in its symptoms to meet the requirements for a diagnosis of hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

This type of bipolar disorder does not meet the criteria for the above three types but is still defined by its symptoms and is still a bipolar disorder type.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is like many mental health disorders where there is no one thing that causes it. Instead, there are risk factors as well as research on the factors that may contribute to someone having it.


For some, there is a risk of getting bipolar disorder more often than others due to certain genes. This is not a given though. Tests have been done on identical twins and while one may develop bipolar disorder, the other may not – showing that genes are not the only contributing factor.

Brain Structure and Function

There are studies that have shown that the brain of someone with bipolar disorder is different from someone who does not have it. In fact, it may even differ from those who have other mental health issues. This research is imperative in finding out exactly what part the brain plays in bipolar disorder and a better understanding of why someone gets it and what demographic is most likely to get it. In some cases, a traumatic event or other environmental factor will trigger this disorder.

Family History

While someone who has a family member with bipolar disorder is not guaranteed to have it also, it does tend to run in families. Most people will not develop this mental health disorder even if a family member has it. Yet, when it comes to statistics, children who have family members with this disorder are more likely to develop it as well. Children in families without a history of bipolar disorder are less likely.

Who Gets Bipolar Disorder and What are the Statistics?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

The average age-of-onset is about 25, but it can occur in the teens, or more uncommonly, in childhood. The condition affects men and women equally, with about 2.6 percent of the U.S. population diagnosed with bipolar disorder and nearly 83 percent of cases classified as severe.

And Mental Health America states:

More than 3.3 million American adults (1.7 percent) suffer from bipolar disorder in a given year. An estimated 4.4 percent of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.

How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

The first thing that a professional usually does is to run tests to ensure that it is not another form of illness causing symptoms found in bipolar disorder. A mental health evaluation is then done in order to find out more about the person and what is going on.

It is important to know that doctors usually see bipolar disorder patients during their times of the lows. When a bipolar person is in the manic phase, they are less likely to seek help with their disorder. In some cases, it can be misdiagnosed as a major depressive disorder instead of bipolar disorder. This is why a thorough medical history is necessary.

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What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Having bipolar disorder is indicative of major mood shifts and swings. The manic phases make a person feel like they can do anything. They have feelings of being in charge of life and on top of the world. On the flip side, the lows make the person feel sad, depressed, hopeless, and more. In between these two variables, the person often feels normal.

Symptoms of a Manic Episode

For those who are experiencing a manic phase of bipolar disorder, there are a few of the symptoms:

  • Distracted easily
  • Grandiosity or a self-esteem that is exaggerated
  • Racing thoughts
  • Needs less sleep or doesn’t seem to sleep at all
  • Talking a lot, talking quickly, talking loudly
  • Reckless and risky behavior
  • Trying to do more than possible in one day – many tasks or scheduled things

With a manic episode, the person will experience at least three of these symptoms for at least a week. These symptoms are noticeable to friends and family and can cause issues at work or with other responsibilities.A manic episode can start at any age but the average is 18.

Hypomanic Episode

In this case, the symptoms are similar to a manic episode but there are differences. Instead of at least a week, the symptoms last around four days. Another major difference is that the symptoms are less severe and may not cause the same disruption to the person’s lifestyle, family, or work.

Major Depressive Episode

In this episode, a person will have at least five of the symptoms listed and one of the five will include at least one of the first couple of symptoms. These episodes last at least a couple of weeks.

  • Intense sadness or despair; feeling helpless, hopeless or worthless++
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed++
  • Fatigue or a loss of energy
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling guilty or not worth anything
  • An increase or decrease in appetite
  • Feeling restless. This may include things like wringing hands, pacing, slower way of talking, etc
  • Thoughts of suicide or dying and these thoughts may be frequent
  • A hard time making decisions or concentrating

The symptoms of bipolar disorder may cause problems in the person’s life in a variety of aspects. Whether it is with family, finances, or work – it is imperative to get treatment to manage bipolar disorder.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health:

Symptoms and their severity can vary. A person with bipolar disorder may have distinct manic or depressed states but may also have extended periods—sometimes years—without symptoms. A person can also experience both extremes simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

Severe bipolar episodes of mania or depression may include psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions. Usually, these psychotic symptoms mirror a person’s extreme mood. People with bipolar disorder who have psychotic symptoms can be wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia.

A person with bipolar disorder in a manic episode may do things that they normally would not do. This includes going on spending sprees, quitting a job, participating in an affair, or participating in reckless behavior.

When that same person is experiencing the downside of bipolar disorder, they may feel hopeless and not want to participate in the things they love. They may not even want to get out of bed.

What is the Treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

Even those with severe bipolar disorder get benefits from treatment. Managing the mood swings or at least gaining better control is paramount and there are a few types of treatments that work best. These are typically through psychotherapy and medication combined.


There are certain medications that help with bipolar disorder. Many people will have to try different medications to find the best one for their needs. Some may not seem to work at first or may not work at all, which means trying another. But finding the right medication is possible and does help with controlling symptoms.

There are three types of medication typically used for bipolar disorder. These include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and atypical anti-psychotics.

Lithium is an example of a mood stabilizer which is often beneficial. It works to prevent manic episodes or at least minimize some of the intensity of the manic episodes.

Anti-convulsants are sometimes used as a mood stabilizer. These are drugs that were and are used to treat those with epilepsy. It was found that they also help with symptoms of mania and often work better than lithium. This is because they may be more adept at treating the more complex bipolar sub-types of rapid cycling and dysphoric mania as well as co-morbid substance abuse.

Second generation anti-psychotics or SGAs are often used in-tandem with mood stabilizers. They work to treat both mixed episodes and manic episodes.

Standard depressants are sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder but in some cases, they are not the best form of treatmetn. This is because they have been known to cause mania in certain people. Also, some research shows that they work no better than simply using a mood stabilizer alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of mood changes, but some people may have lingering symptoms. Long-term, continuous treatment helps to control these symptoms.


An essential part of treating bipolar disorder involves psychotherapy. A combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy along with medication works better than those who only take medication alone.

Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT works to help change the way a person thinks. Instead of negative thinking, CBT helps change that behavior. This is also an effective way of managing coping skills.

Psychotherapy works to regulate stress and provide self-care. This allows the person with bipolar disorder know when the onset of symptoms is coming and can then manage their stress better.

There are other forms of treatment for bipolar disorder too. Some treatments involve electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. This is very rare though and only used in extreme cases of depression or mania.

We Can Help

If you or a loved one has bipolar disorder, Transformations can help with psychotherapy as well as helping you find the right medicine for your needs. There isn’t a single plan that works for everyone, which is why we customize your treatment.. If you need help, contact us so we can help start a plan to help you live a life with fewer symptoms of bipolar disorder. In fact, it is important to know that bipolar disorder is treatable. Even recovery is possible with a combination of a healthy lifestyle, therapy, and medication.

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