Bipolar Disorder


Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect one’s mood, thinking, and behavior. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness; the most common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders.

Bipolar disorder is a condition that features extreme shifts in mood and fluctuation in energy and activity levels that can make the daily life difficult. A person with this condition experiences alternating “highs”—what clinicians call “mania”—and “lows”—also known as depression. The fluctuations can be severe, but moods may be normal between the peaks and troughs.

As with most mental disorders, researchers are still not certain what causes this condition; there is no single risk factor, gene, or other predisposition that puts a person at increased risk for bipolar disorder. According to research, it may occur because of a different brain structure and way of functioning, or a set of genetic factors.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are four major categories of bipolar disorder: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder, and bipolar disorder due to another medical or substance abuse disorder (APA, 2013). All types of bipolar disorder generally respond well to treatment, which usually includes medication management for many years, and for some, psychotherapy.

Bipolar disorder symptoms may include:

  • Feeling sad or down;
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate;
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt;
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows;
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities;
  • Significant fatigue, low energy, or problem sleeping;
  • Detachment from reality (delusions), paranoia, or hallucinations;
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress;
  • Trouble understanding and relating to situations and to people;
  • Major changes in eating habits;
  • Excessive anger, hostility, or violence;
  • Suicidal thinking.

There is no guaranteed way to prevent mental illness; however, taking steps to control stress, to increase resilience, and to boost low self-esteem, may help keep symptoms under control.


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