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Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Written byDesiree Smith

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder can involve unusual mood changes that are on different ends of the mood spectrum: manic, depressed or mixed (both manic and depressed at the same time). Some days you can feel overly energized and very productive (can last for a week or longer), while other days you may feel down, depressed and may even find it difficult to get out of the bed. Some people can experience both manic and depressed mood together.

What does it mean to have a “manic” episode?

When a person is manic, they have a lot of energy. They may describe feeling elated, “up” or “high”. They often will experience these symptoms as well:

  • Feeling wired
  • Easily distracted
  • Impulsive
  • Do risky things outside of what is normal for them
  • Racing thoughts
  • Talking faster than usual
  • Mind frequently changes from thought to thought
  • Decreased need for sleep (does not feel tired)
  • Taking on a lot of tasks at once
  • Easily agitated or irritable (APA, 2013)

Depressed episodes?

When a person is depressed, they feel down, sad and can get into a dark mood. They often will experience these symptoms:

  • Sleep changes (sleeping too much or inability to sleep)
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sudden weight changes
  • No longer feel pleasure in the things you used to enjoy
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, empty, or worthlessness
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Unexplainable fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetfulness (APA, 2013)

Why do people develop bipolar disorder?

Ongoing research to help us understand bipolar disorder is underway. At this time, the exact cause is not known; however, it is believed that family genetics, brain structure, and brain function are contributing factor to the development of the disorder. Bipolar disorder has been known to run in families, but, it is important to note that having a family member diagnosed with bipolar disorder does not mean other members of the family will develop bipolar disorder (NIMH, n.d.).

What treatment options are available?

Because the extreme highs and lows that can be associated with bipolar disorder are challenging to manage alone; the first step to treatment and recovery is to seek help from a mental health care provider. Our providers are compassionate and utilize a holistic treatment approach. There are different treatment options available to treat bipolar disorder including medications and Integrated Psychotherapy. After a comprehensive evaluation of your symptoms, our providers will individualize your treatment plan based on your personal situation (NIMH, n.d.).


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington: American Psychiatric Association.

National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). Bipolar Disorders. Retrieved from:

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