Bipolar Disorder

Sometimes referred to as “manic-depressant disorder,” bipolar disorder is marked by extreme mood swings ranging from periods of intense mania followed by or preceded by a period of intense depression. These severe mood shifts generally only occur a few times a year and in some cases, the individual may experience the mania and depression at the same time. When a period of mania is present, you feel happy and as if you are on a cloud. The world is an amazing place and there are nearly no negative feelings in you. A period of extreme euphoria, the individual is full of energy and ready to take on the world. During the period of depression, people who suffer from bipolar experience severe depression, a feeling of hopelessness and a loss of interest in activities that he/she once enjoyed. Though bipolar disorder is long-term and can be extremely disruptive, there are a number of treatments that can help keep the mood swings balanced.




There are two stages of bipolar disorder. The first being the manic stage includes the following symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased sex drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Extreme optimism
  • Careless use of drugs and alcohol
  • Risky behavior
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability
  • Delusions (psychosis)/a break from reality
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Absences from school or work
  • Tendency to make unattainable plans
  • Easily distracted


During the period of depression, symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Increased need to sleep
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Change in appetite followed by weight gain or weight loss
  • Sadness
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic pain without a known cause
  • Absences from school or work
  • Poor performance at school or work




Though health professionals have not yet pinpointed a specific cause of bipolar disorder, the two theories surrounding bipolar are a chemical imbalance in the brain and genetics. Three brain chemicals that are directly involved in our moods are serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. A balance of all three chemicals is necessary to maintain normal functioning. An imbalance of any of these three chemicals can cause a variety of behavioral disorders such as depression, bipolar and psychosis. In addition, some studies have shown that bipolar is genetic. If an immediate family member has suffered from bipolar or depression, their children or close relatives are pre-disposed to have the same disorder.




Standard physical examinations such as blood tests and urine tests are generally administered to rule out physical ailments that can be causing bipolar-like symptoms. Once a physical illness is ruled out, psychological examinations and mood charting are the most common methods used to diagnose bipolar. A doctor or mental health professional will talk to you about your mood swings, feelings and behavior problems and discuss possible triggers for these mood swings. To specifically identify the severity and rate of these mood swings, keeping a daily record of moods, sleep and eating patterns is used to determine the severity of the disorder which is key to determining the correct treatment.




Depending on the severity of the disorder, medication and counseling are the most common methods of treatment. The most common medication used in treating bipolar is Lithium. A mood stabilizer, Lithium balances out the levels of the chemicals in the brain, preventing the extreme highs and lows that come with bipolar. Other medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics may also be prescribed depending on the level of severity of bipolar the individual has developed. Continued counseling as maintenance is commonly used as well to ensure that the disorder is maintained through the use of mood stabilizers.