Mental Disorders

'At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you're living with this illness and functioning at all, it's something to be proud of, not ashamed of"
-Carrie Fisher, an American actress


Before understanding the term bipolar, there is a need to understand biological vulnerability - which refers to people who are either born with or have the genetic tendency to develop a particular disease or disorder. For instance, some individuals are more prone to develop hypertension while others to develop diabetes. Similarly, there are people who have a biological vulnerability to develop mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder, is characterized by unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Those diagnosed may experience two different kinds of moods, which include high (manic), with overly happy, excited and energetic moods, and low (depressive) symptoms, where an individual becomes sad, hopeless, sluggish and depressed. Individuals with bipolar disorder often define it as a fluctuation between high and low moods that is beyond control.

Signs and Symptoms

Before looking at the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is important to know that bipolar disorder differs from person to person, due to changes in external and internal factors. In addition, this illness may change in its severity over the period of time. Depending on the disorder sub-type, it is important to consider the types of episodes involved.

The Manic Episode involves elevated, irritable mood with an increased energy that lasts for about a week. In addition, the following symptoms also help identify noticeable change in an individual’s behavior:

  • Unreasonably high sense of self/ abnormally upbeat, jumpy or wired
  • Feeling active with a few hours of sleep
  • Feeling the need to talk
  • Racing thoughts
  • Being distracted
  • Lowered decision making ability

A Hypomanic episode involves the exact same symptoms as above but for a period of 4 days. However, it is not as impairing socially and functionally as compared to a Manic Episode.

A Major Depressive Episode has two prominent symptoms, namely, depressed mood and loss of interest. Besides these two there are seven symptoms that characterize such an episode. Hence for 2 consecutive weeks, an individual might undergo some of the following:

  • Changes in weight
  • Changes in sleep
  • Restlessness or being slow
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts

In bipolar disorder, psychosis may occur at any or both periods of mood episodes, during which the individual may not be able to differ between reality and imagination, and may experience delusions and hallucination.

Types of Bipolar Disorders

Three basic types of bipolar disorders have been identified; however, all of them involve a clear change in mood, energy, and activity levels.

1) Bipolar I Disorder

It is identified by manic episodes that last a minimum of 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are severe enough to require hospitalization. Depressive episodes may occur as well, usually lasting a minimum of 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features, i.e. having depression and manic symptoms at the same time, is also possible.

2) Bipolar II Disorder

This is identified by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes.

3) Cyclothymic Disorder (also known as cyclothymia)

There are several periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as several periods of depressive symptoms lasting for a minimum of 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, usually the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements of a hypomanic episode or a depressive episode.

Bipolar disorder is a serious and debilitating illness both for the client and their family. If you or any of your loved ones are going through the symptoms mentioned above, seek the help of our mental health professionals.

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