Experiencing emotional highs and lows is a regular part of the human experience. However, for some people, these highs and lows are more than just passing feelings.
People with bipolar disorder experience positive and negative emotions at an elevated level. These people might feel incredibly energetic one day. Then they find themselves unable to get out of bed because they have fallen into a deep depression the next day.
People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme emotional highs and lows for days, weeks, or even months at a time.
Bipolar disorder encompasses three primary types:
- Bipolar 1
- Bipolar 2
- Cyclothymia (or cyclothymic disorder)
The most common types of bipolar disorder are types 1 and 2.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness. Someone with bipolar disorder will move between extreme emotional states known as manic (high) and depressive (low).
Researchers are still uncertain what has caused an estimated 5.7 million people in the U.S. to develop bipolar disorder.
Some factors that may contribute to bipolar disorder include:
- Genetics: People whose parents have bipolar disorder seem to be more likely to develop it than those who do not have a family history.
- Stress: How people manage highly stressful situations may contribute to their likelihood of developing bipolar disorder.
- Brain structure: Studies have found that the brain structure of people with bipolar disorder differs from those without it.
Other essential facts about bipolar disorder include:
- Bipolar disorder often appears when someone is a teen or young adult, with an average onset age of 25 years old.
- Men and women can develop bipolar disorder.
- Nearly 83 percent of people with bipolar disorder have a serious impairment.
- Nearly half of people living with bipolar disorder remain untreated.
- Living with bipolar disorder can be extremely challenging and disruptive.
Bipolar 1 vs. Bipolar 2
Both bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 involve episodes of extreme high and low moods (i.e., manic and depressive episodes).
The difference is the severity of the manic and depressive episodes in bipolar 1 versus bipolar 2.
In contrast, bipolar 2 is characterized by more mild manic episodes and more severe depressive episodes.
Bipolar 1 is characterized by extreme manic episodes and less severe depressive episodes.
Bipolar 1 manic episodes
Someone with bipolar 1 will have a full manic episode experience. This means they live in a state of elevated energy and excitement for at least a week. During that time, a person with bipolar 1 will experience these elevated levels of excitement and euphoria most of the time.
There are many downsides to having full manic episodes. Most importantly, they can lead a person to make precarious decisions. Such as making a big investment or doing something that risks their physical safety. In severe cases, a manic episode can cause a psychotic break, in which a person completely dissociates from reality.
Not all manic episodes involve euphoric feelings. Sometimes, a person can feel irritable yet energetic for the duration of their episode. This can also lead to negative behavior because the person will do things as if their actions have no consequences. Such behavior can severely affect a person’s social, personal, and professional life after the manic episode is over.
Sometimes, a person having a manic episode will need to be hospitalized. This can happen when a person is doing things that put themselves or others in dangerous situations. It can also be necessary to hospitalize a loved one if they are hallucinating or unable to care for themself.
Bipolar 2 depressive episodes
People with bipolar 1 will fall into a depressed state after a manic episode. This depressed state is less severe for people with bipolar 1 than for those with bipolar 2. However, depressive episodes are still disruptive and in need of attention.
People with bipolar 2 do not have full manic episodes. Instead, they may have what’s known as hypomanic episodes, which are followed by extreme depressive episodes that can last for months.
Bipolar 2 manic episodes
Hypomania can cause similar feelings as mania, including feeling energetic and either happy or irritable for most of the time. A person having a hypomanic episode can usually perform their typical daily activities. Although they may make decisions that have negative consequences.
Unlike manic episodes, hypomanic episodes do not always last a week. They might only last four days at a time. In addition, hypomanic episodes do not require hospitalization.
Bipolar 2 depressive episodes
Bipolar 2 is characterized by extreme depressive episodes. The person experiencing a depressive episode may not want to get out of bed for days, weeks, or months at a time. They might feel overwhelmed with decision-making, even for seemingly small things, like what to eat.
Most significantly, depressive episodes can lead a person to think about suicide and self-harm. The thoughts a person has during a depressive episode get in the way of their ability to function.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
If a person exhibits both manic and depressed symptoms for long periods, they might have bipolar disorder.
Keep in mind that not all manic or depressed episodes look the same for every person.
Manic episode symptoms can include:
- Feeling euphoric
- Making risky decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Extreme amounts of energy
- Having poor sleep patterns (i.e., getting by on just a few hours of sleep a night)
Depressed episode symptoms can include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Changes in eating habits
- Suicidal thoughts and ideation
- Changes in sleeping habits (i.e., sleeping too much or not being able to sleep)
Treatment for Bipolar Disorder
Unfortunately, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. However, there are treatment options, which usually include a combination of mood-stabilizing medication and therapy.
It is critical that anyone who has or is suspected of having bipolar disorder get treated by a licensed professional. A professional can help them form a treatment plan that allows them to participate in their daily activities.
Acera Health offers bipolar treatment for patients that empowers them to live fulfilling, healthy lives. Contact us to learn more.