What is Bipolar?

The Short:

Bipolar is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain which causes abnormally heightened states of emotion known as ‘depression’ and ‘mania’. This can be balanced with a mix of medication, healthy lifestyle, and a strong support system. It affects everyone differently, but most often makes it difficult to function normally on a day to day basis.


The Long:

  • What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar (known as Manic-Depressive Disorder) is a mental disorder, characterized by shifts of extreme emotions. It is defined by the presence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated energy levels, cognition, and mood — with or without one or more depressive episodes. These encompass a frenzied state known as mania (or hypomania) usually alternated with symptoms of depression. The experience of abnormally elevated mood states can  interfere with the functions of ordinary life.

  • The Symptoms

It’s important to keep in mind that each person is affected differently by their disorder, and likely never to experience all of these symptoms – many never even experience hypomania.

  1. Mania – a distinct period of elevated or irritable mood, which can take the form of euphoria; an increase in energy and decrease in need for sleep; judgment becomes impaired; attention span and memory are low; may become aggressive; delusions of grandiose; increased libido; more likely to engage in risky behavior; potentially can experience psychosis.
  2. Hypomania – often not as debilitating as mania, many are more productive than usual; increased creativity; poor judgment and irritability; hyper libido; increased energy and activity levels.
  3. Depression – persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, isolation, loneliness, apathy, irritability, self-loathing, indifference or hopelessness; disturbances in sleep and appetite; fatigue and loss of interest in activities; problems with concentration and memory; lowered libido; withdrawn or introverted; thoughts of suicide or psychosis.
  4. Mixed Affective – a mixed state is a condition in which symptoms of depression and mania occur simultaneously; these are often the most dangerous of mood disorders, as the risk of substance abuse, panic disorder, suicide attempts and other complications increase dramatically.
  • Causes

Genetic studies suggest that many genes appear to relate to bipolar development, however results have not been consistent. Abnormalities in the structure or function of certain brain circuits could underlie bipolar, which likely contribute to poor emotional regulation and moon symptoms. Evidence suggest that environmental factors play a significant role, and that psychological variables may interact with genetic dispositions, to the development of bipolar disorder.

  • History

The term “manic–depressive illness” or psychosis was coined by German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin in the late nineteenth century, originally referring to all kinds of mood disorder. German psychiatrist Karl Leonhard split the classification in 1957, employing the terms unipolar disorder (major depressive disorder) and bipolar disorder.


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