What are Bipolar Disorders?

Bipolar disorder is often misconstrued with other mental illnesses, however what is bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder which is typically characterised by drastic shifts in mood. These drastic shifts in moods are frequently marked by episodes of mania and depression. Some individuals with bipolar are free of significant mood changes in between episodes, however this can vary from person to person, with some individuals having lingering side effects in between episodes. 

Before defining mania and depression it is also worthy to note the fact that there are more than one types of bipolar disorder. These include Bipolar I, which is characterised by the individual having at least one manic episode. Which can be potentially followed up by less severe manic or depressive episodes. This form of bipolar disorder is also known to affect both sexes equally. 

The second form of Bipolar Disorder is Bipolar II, this form differs in that it consists of one major depressive episode that can last up to 2 weeks. With individuals with Bipolar II also having a lesser manic or depressive episode potentially lasting for 4 days. The form of Bipolar disorder is more common among women. 

The third form of Bipolar disorder is known as Cyclothymia. Individuals with Cyclothymia will typically experience episodes of less severe mania and depression. The symptoms of these episodes are typically shorter and less severe than those of the other two bipolar disorders. It is also possible for additional forms of Bipolar disorder to occur in the case of an individual with a mood disorder that resembles but does not absolutely follow the specifications of the three mentioned disorders. In this case it would be considered an unspecified bipolar and related disorders. 

When an individual is in a manic state they will usually display the symptoms of intense happiness or playfulness for a prolonged period. In addition to speaking rapidly and/or having fast paced thoughts that may seem difficult to keep up with. This can also be compounded with a sense of irritability or poor temper, an over inflated sense of self and a poor sense of judgment leading to potentially reckless decisions. All of these can be potential symptoms or signs of mania. 

Furthermore, the second episodic indicator of bipolar disorder is depression. Depression is characterised by a variety of symptoms including prolonged feelings of sadness or loneliness. Self-imposed isolation from others, a change in one’s eating habits, lack of interest in usual activities, and a change in sleeping habits. It’s crucial to remember that bipolar disorder does not consist of just mania or depression, rather it is the extreme and unusual shifts between these two episodes that is truly indicative of bipolar disorder. 

Furthermore, it is important to note that bipolar disorder can occur in young adults and teens just as much as it can in adults. Therefore it is important to always remain vigilant, and if you know or someone you know is experiencing these thoughts it is crucial that you seek professional help. 


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596 

Goldstein, B. I., Birmaher, B., Carlson, G. A., DelBello, M. P., Findling, R. L., Fristad, M., Kowatch, R. A., Miklowitz, D. J., Nery, F. G., Perez-Algorta, G., Van Meter, A., Zeni, C. P., Correll, C. U., Kim, H.-W., Wozniak, J., Chang, K. D., Hillegers, M., & Youngstrom, E. A. (2017). The International Society for Bipolar Disorders Task Force Report on Pediatric Bipolar Disorder: Knowledge to date and directions for future research. Bipolar Disorders, 19(7), 524–543. https://doi.org/10.1111/bdi.12556 

Miklowitz, D. J., & George, E. L. (2008). The bipolar teen: What you can do to help your child and your family. Guilford Press. https://www.guilford.com/books/The-Bipolar-Teen/Miklowitz-George/9781593853181

Perez Algorta, G., MacPherson, H. A., Youngstrom, E. A., Belt, C. C., Arnold, L. E., Frazier, T. W., Taylor, H. G., Birmaher, B., Horwitz, S. M. C., Findling, R. L., & Fristad, M. A. (2018). Parenting stress among caregivers of children with bipolar spectrum disorders. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 47(sup1), S306–S320. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2017.1280805

Written by:

Leah Selakovic


SACAC Counselling

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