Bipolar disorder explained

 According to data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, an estimated 4.4% of adults in the United States experience bipolar disorder at some point. How much can this affect their mental well-being? Keep reading to learn more about bipolar disorder. 

What is Bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health illness that causes extreme mood swings that range from emotional highs (hypomania) to emotional lows (depression). Mood swing episodes may happen rarely or multiple times a year. While most patients experience some emotional symptoms between each episode, some might not experience any. 

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed as a lifelong condition. However, you can manage mood swings and other symptoms with an effective treatment plan, including medications and psychological counseling.

Types of bipolar disorders

There are different types of bipolar and related disorders, including the following:

Bipolar I disorder

You’ve experienced at least one manic episode. This might have been preceded or followed by hypomania or depressive episodes. In some cases, mania could trigger a break from reality (psychosis)

Bipolar II disorder

You’ve had at least one hypomanic episode and at least one hypomanic episode. However, you’ve never had a manic episode.

Cyclothymic disorder

You’ve had at least two years of many periods of hypomania and depressive symptoms. 

Mania and hypomania

These are two distinct types of episodes but with similar symptoms. Mania is more serious than hypomania and can lead to problems with school, work, and social activities. It can also lead to psychosis and require hospitalization. Symptoms include:

  • Increased activity, energy, and agitation
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility

Major depressive episodes

This includes symptoms that are serious enough to cause difficulty in daily activities. An episode can have five or more of these symptoms:

  • Depressed mood such as feeling sad or hopeless. This can manifest as irritability in teens and children
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
  • Considering, planning, or attempting suicide.

Symptoms in children and teens

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be hard to spot in teens and children, and this is because it can be difficult to distinguish normal ups and downs, which are the results of stress, from signs of bipolar disorder. 

Teens and children have distinct major depressive or hypomanic episodes, but they vary from those seen in adults. The most prominent signs in the former may include severe mood swings, which are different from their regular mood swings.


Despite having extreme moods, people with bipolar disorder won’t recognize how much their lives and those around them are disrupted if they don’t get treatment. If you have any symptoms of mania or depression, visit your mental health professional who’s experienced in bipolar disorder to help you get your symptoms under control.