About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes abnormal shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out daily activities and tasks. These shifts in mood can include both manic and depressive episodes.
Mania & Hypomania
Mania and hypomania episodes share similar symptoms of heightened mood but differ in severity. Manic symptoms have the potential to cause a mental break from reality, while hypomanic symptoms are less severe.
Manic and hypomanic episodes may include:
- Feeling jumpy, upbeat, or wired
- Exaggerating self-confidence and euphoria
- Decreasing need for sleep and insomnia
- Racing thoughts
- Getting easily distracted
- Increasing activity, energy, and irritability
- Impulsive behaviors and poor decision making
In more severe manic episodes causing psychosis, a person may experience delusions such as believing they have special abilities or supreme social connections.
People with bipolar disorder may experience depressive episodes where symptoms may last several days or weeks. Symptoms from depressive episodes can make completing daily tasks extremely difficult.
Depressive episodes symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Emptiness, extreme sadness, and hopelessness
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Insomnia or oversleeping
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Decreasing ability to concentrate
Symptoms and Types of Bipolar Disorder
All types of bipolar disorder include a clear change in mood, energy, and activity levels. Mood swings include periods of overly heightened moods to lowered moods.
There are three types of bipolar disorder:
- Bipolar I Disorder – is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days or manic symptoms that are so severe that they require hospitalization. Depressive episodes also occur and last about two weeks. The person may also feel symptoms of depression and mania occur at the same time.
- Bipolar II Disorder – is defined by patterns of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes. The manic episodes are not as severe as those people who struggle with Bipolar I depression.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia) – is defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms. People with cyclothymia may experience a month or two of symptoms but these symptoms are less severe than the other two types of depression.
Manic episodes in Bipolar I Disorder are more severe than those in Bipolar II disorder. However, depressive episodes in people who struggle with Bipolar II Disorder can last longer and become more debilitating than those with Bipolar I Disorder.
Although there is no definitive cause of the bipolar disorder, there are factors that can increase the risk of a person developing this disorder.
- Brain structure and functioning – Neuropsychological impairments have been seen in people with bipolar disorder. The use of functional brain imaging has shown that the impairments may be related to the pathophysiology in the prefrontal and anterior cortex as well as the amygdala and ventral striatum.
- Genetics – Individuals who have family members that are diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop bipolar disorder. Many genes are involved in the development of the bipolar disorder and no one gene can cause the disorder.
- Stress – Trauma and high stress can trigger a manic or depressive episode. Combat experience and other stressful environments one may be exposed to in the military give military personnel and veterans more exposure to stress.
PTSD is a common condition among veterans, people that have both PTSD and Bipolar disorder are common and result in a greater burden of symptoms than either condition alone. PTSD along with bipolar increases your risk of suicide and having a rapid cycle through the depressive and manic episodes.