The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that bipolar disorder is “a serious mental illness,” that’s characterized by significant mood changes. Someone with this disorder can go from feeling very happy to extremely sad and depressed without obvious causation or logical reason. They may swing back and forth between these states of mania and depression, with each phase being less or more severe than others.
The National Institute of Mental Health notes that there are actually four types of bipolar disorder.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health notes that experts don’t fully understand the causation behind bipolar disorder. Studies of the disorder have indicated some potential risk factors and causes, but no one is 100% certain how these factors might work together.
Biology may play a role. This is a disorder of the brain, and how the brain functions, or even how it’s shaped may play a role in whether someone has bipolar disorder. The same is true for brain chemistry; when the chemicals that are responsible for mood and behavior are out of balance, it might lead to bipolar disorder.
There is also some evidence that genetics are at play because someone who has an immediate family member with the condition is more likely to be diagnosed with it themselves. Around two-thirds of people who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder have an immediate or close relative who is dealing with the same disorder or another depression disorder.
Stress, physical illness, and environmental factors can also contribute to whether or not someone has the disorder or how severe it might be, according to the Victoria State Government Better Health Channel.
According to the NIMH, just over 4% of people in the United States have dealt with bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime. The disorder impacts roughly 2.8% of adults each year, with the largest impact on people aged 18 to 29. The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance puts that in perspective by noting that around 5.7 million people in America battle this mental health issue each year.
When it comes to adolescents, bipolar prevalence is around 2.9%. While adult men and women tend to experience bipolar disorder in equal numbers, female adolescents are slightly more likely to present with the disorder than their male counterparts. Despite the fact that bipolar disorder can impact teens of any age — and even some children — it’s more likely among teens age 17 to 18.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bipolar disorder leads to around half a million emergency room visits annually for those aged 15 and older, with people aged 15 to 24 accounting for the highest number of visits.
Extreme moods of either a depressive or manic nature, especially when they last for several weeks and alternate, are typically the main signs of bipolar disorder. These moods can alternate with periods of normalcy where the person is neither manic nor depressed.
Manic episodes range in severity, but they are characterized by some or all of the symptoms below.
Depressive episodes can also range when it comes to severity and how long they last. Some common symptoms of depressive episodes can include:
Since these symptoms can also be symptoms of other mental or physical health conditions, it’s important to see a medical health professional if you’re experiencing any of these issues. Your doctor can help you find the right professionals to ensure you’re properly diagnosed so you can get the treatment that lets you live better with bipolar disorder, or deal with any other issues you might be facing.
Bipolar disorder, like many other mental health conditions, is not “curable.” However, with the right treatment and management of this disorder, people can live in remission for years and enjoy a long and otherwise healthy life. Remission means that you aren’t experiencing any symptoms of the disorder.
How bipolar disorder is treated depends on the person, the severity of the manic or depressive episodes, and any co-occurring diagnoses. Co-occurring diagnoses are mental or physical health conditions you’re dealing with at the same time.
In cases where someone is presenting with such severe mania or depression that they are a risk to themselves or others, professionals might recommend inpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is also an option, either as a step-down from inpatient or as the starting point for someone who needs to learn more about their illness and how to control it.
Whether healthcare professionals recommend a stay in the hospital or think someone with bipolar disorder can best manage by checking in with a clinician regularly, the following methods are commonly employed for treatment.
This guide is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this guide is meant to act as medical advice, and it is not prescriptive in nature. It’s only meant to provide general education on bipolar disorder for those looking for more information. If you believe you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health disorder, reach out to your doctor or another mental health professional for assistance and recommendations on the best next steps.