Bipolar Disorder: What is it?

In recent years, mental health has become something of a trend. While the older generations have never heard of social anxiety or PTSD, teenagers throw these terms around without little thought. As a result, there’s still some type of stigma attached to the field of mental health. We have come a long way in medicine and are now more aware of our own mental well-being. However, most disorders are often over-looked or even downplayed. Bipolar disorder happens to be one of these disorders.

You may have heard of bipolar disorder and have a vague idea of its symptoms due to the rather lacklustre representation of it in various TV shows. But I doubt many have given it a second thought. As a result of poor representation in the media and elsewhere, bipolar disorder is somewhat misunderstood by the general public. As a result, not much is known about it. Also called ‘manic depression’, bipolar disorder is a condition that causes extreme lows and highs in terms of mood. These mood swings are referred to as depression and mania, respectively.

Periods of depression may include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest in daily life
  • Forgetfulness
  • Suicidal thoughts

Periods of mania may include:

  • Feelings of excessive euphoria, restlessness, and irritability
  • Racing speech and thoughts
  • High amounts of energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Aggressive or risky behaviour
  • Excessive spending or drug/alcohol abuse

With bipolar disorder, periods of depression often last for an average of six months, although they may last longer. Periods of mania, however, tend to last for relatively shorter amounts of time (from two weeks to as long as five months). People with bipolar disorder may also experience delusions, such as hearing voices in their heads.

The causes of bipolar disorder vary greatly from genetic to environmental. For almost half of patients dealing with bipolar disorder, the disease runs in the family. However, no single gene has been found responsible for being the cause. Chemical imbalance is also suggested as a cause, but many believe that stressful situations are the main trigger of bipolar disorder. These situations may include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, the death of a loved one, or the breakdown of a relationship. Medication, such as anti-depressants, can also trigger mania.

One in five patients suffering from bipolar disorder commit suicide, which is why it is so important to raise awareness. Especially for the teenage population. Many may be living with bipolar disorder and not even know it. As a result, people resort to self-harm or drug abuse as an outlet for their pain.

It has been suggested that some adolescents with manic depression may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder. And 20% of individuals with major depression have gone on to develop bipolar disorder.

We here at Psych2Go would like to know your thoughts and experiences. Feel free to leave a comment below and let us know if this article was helpful to you.

If you or someone you know is dealing with bipolar disorder or they’re showing symptoms, please seek professional help by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you’re in the US. Or visit this website: It’s never too late to seek help.



Edited by Viveca Shearin

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  1. While this is good explanation of the adult version of the disorder its symptoms often manifest in different or additional symptoms in children and adolescence. It would be nice if someone did more research and added this to the article. Also it would be nice if you could explain the difference of euphoric and dysphoric mania since the public knows little of the latter it can go unrecognized. Thank you for your article.

  2. “It has been suggested that some adolescents with manic depression may actually be experiencing the early onset of bipolar disorder.” The two terms were used interchangeably similar at the start of the article.
    “And 20% of individuals with major depression have gone on to develop bipolar disorder.” Does this relate to the adolescents in the sentence before, or in general? If in general, from which age has that percentage been researched/concluded?
    The rest of the article is good and informative, thank you.

  3. Hi,
    I’m currently talking a lot with a girl with diagnosed (and treated) bipolar disorder. I realy like her and she seems to like me as well. However I’m wondering if the relationship could actualy work. I have some experience with psychicaly ill people. I dated a minor schyzofrenic girl for almost two years. (Then about a year ago she came out as lesbian and we broke up.). If i wanted to make it work what precautions should i make and what roadblocks should i be ready to encounter?


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