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Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder is a mental health condition that causes severe mood swings which alternate between hypomanic (periods of over-active and excited behaviour) episodes and depressive episodes. There are three forms of Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder. The diagnostic criteria for Bipolar I disorder and Bipolar II disorder are the same, except for the experience of mania and hypomania.

Those suffering from Bipolar I Disorder tend to experience more intense feelings of euphoria than is typical in Bipolar II Disorder. In Cyclothymic disorder, the individual experiences hypomania and depressive episodes, but not with the same intensity found in either Bipolar I or II disorder.


Common symptoms found in those suffering from Bipolar Disorders include:

• During a manic or hypomanic state: feelings and behaviours such as increased energy or activity, racing thoughts, distractibility, talkativeness, and euphoria

• During a depressive state: feelings and behaviours such as sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, low energy, insomnia or hypersomnia, depressed mood, and considering, planning, or attempting suicide


Bipolar Disorders are believed to be caused by various factors, such as genetics. People with close relatives who also have Bipolar Disorder are more likely to develop it themselves. Chemical imbalances in the brain such as extremely high or low levels of the neurotransmitter (chemical messages) noradrenaline can precipitate a manic or depressive episode.


Treatment for Bipolar Disorders can be challenging for several reasons. One reason is that during a manic state, patients can find it so pleasurable that they refuse to take their medication, as they feel that their behaviour is perfectly reasonable. The same can be true when a patient is going through a depressive stupor, where their risk of suicide is greatly increased.

Medications such as lithium and antipsychotics are often used to treat Bipolar Disorders. Mood stabilizers and anticonvulsants can also be described. Psychotherapy such as family-focused and cognitive behavioural therapy can help with managing Bipolar Disorder.

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