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Bipolar Disorder

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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a condition that can cause extreme mood swings that are often characterized by emotional highs and lows. There are several types of bipolar disorders and related disorders, the most common being bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, and cyclothymic disorder.


Researchers have yet to determine the cause of bipolar disorder, but they do know that this disorder is highly heritable.  However, not everyone who is genetically predisposed to be at risk develops this disorder, so it is likely the cause is a combination of several factors including genetics, stress levels, and substance abuse.

“I think I might have bipolar disorder, but I’m not sure what type.”  

All types of bipolar disorder are known to have symptoms such as extreme mood swings, and emotional highs and lows. However, each type has some symptoms that make them different from each other.  

Bipolar I Disorder:

To be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, you must have experienced at least one manic episode.  A manic episode can be identified through the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Risky behavior
  • Restlessness
  • Abnormal amounts of energy

Bipolar II Disorder:

In order to be diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, you must have experienced a lengthy (two weeks or more) depressive episode, and a hypomanic episode.  A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode, but is less intense and you might not experience as many symptoms. A depressive episode is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Increased irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits

Cyclothymic Disorder:

Cyclothymia is a rare mood disorder that can commonly be confused with bipolar disorder.  However, the symptoms of cyclothymia are less intense than those of bipolar disorder, and often are characterized by hypomanic tendencies and frequent emotional highs and lows.  Some of these symptoms include:

  • Extreme optimism
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
  • Problems with concentration

Am I at risk?

Factors that could increase your risk of having bipolar disorder are:

  • Having a family member with bipolar disorder
  • Experiencing a period of high stress or trauma
  • Substance abuse

Bipolar Disorder At A Glance

  • Approximately 5.7 million adults in the United States (2.6% of the population) are affected by bipolar disorder.
  • This disorder is found across all types of people, regardless of age, race, ethnic or social class.
  • While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, this condition is manageable.