Home » Addiction Information » Bipolar Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bipolar Disorder: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a serious mental illness characterized by severe shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. These extreme mood swings include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

When an individual becomes depressed, they feel sad, hopeless, and lose interest in most activities. They might be full of self-loathing, too tired to get out of bed, and feeling down. On the other hand, when their mood shifts to mania or hypomania, they start feeling energetic and euphoric. A person might start spending huge amounts of money, impulsively quit a job, or feel rested after sleeping for only two or three hours. These mood swings can appear once in a while or multiple times a year, affecting an individual’s behavior, activity, sleep, energy, judgement, and the ability to think clearly.

Luckily, this disorder is treatable. With the right medication and proper care, individuals battling with bipolar disorder can do well at their school or job and lead a productive life.


Types of Bipolar Disorder

According to research, there are four basic types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I Disorder – a mental illness where manic episodes last at least 7 days or where symptoms that are so severe that the individual needs to be hospitalized immediately. Depressive episodes usually last for 2 weeks. The individual can also suffer from episodes with mixed features at the same time.
  • Bipolar II Disorder – A type of bipolar disorder where the individual suffers from both depression and mania, but not as severe as the episodes occurring in a Bipolar I Disorder.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder – With this type of disorder, the individual suffers from multiple episodes of hypomanic symptoms and multiple episodes of depressive symptoms that last for at least 2 years.
  • Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders – These include bipolar and related disorders caused by certain drugs, alcohol or a medical condition.

61ec7220ceed8855e2facdba5bee9e1a (1)

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

An estimated 2.9% of Americans suffer from bipolar disorder, with the majority of patients being ages 15-25. The disorder affects men and women equally. According to the American Psychological Association, the emotional shifts that occur can sometimes become so overwhelming that individuals may commit suicide.

Although the exact causes of bipolar disorder are not completely known, researchers believe that many genetic, neurochemical, and environmental factors play a vital role in the outbreak and progression of bipolar disorder.


Studies show that bipolar disorder is more common in individuals who have a first-degree relative with the same condition. If one parent suffers from the disorder, there’s a 10 to 15% greater chance of the kid to develop the same condition. If both parents have bipolar disorder, then there is a 30 to 40% chance. Furthermore, if one of two identical twins has bipolar disorder, then there’s 40 to 70% chance for the other twin to also be diagnosed.


Bipolar disorder occurs in a specific area of the brain and it appears due to the dysfunction of certain neurotransmitters, including norepinephrine, serotonin, and others. Noradrenaline and serotonin are linked to psychiatric mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. Serotonin is connected to several body functions like eating, memory, learning, and sleep. Studies show that abnormal functioning of brain circuits that involve serotonin can contribute to mood disorders. Moreover, dopamine regulates pleasure and emotional reward and disruption of circuits that communicate via dopamine appear connected to schizophrenia and psychosis.


Research shows that children who grow up with bipolar parents face significant environmental stressors. These stressors include alcohol and substance abuse, financial and sexual indiscretions, mood swings, and hospitalizations. Despite the fact that not all children with a bipolar parent will develop the disorder, they might develop another psychiatric disorder such as schizophrenia, ADHD, or depression. Furthermore, although substance abuse is not a bipolar disorder, it can make the illness worse by interfering with recovery.


Antidepressants can also trigger a manic episode in people battling with bipolar disorder. Since depression can turn into a manic episode when an individual takes antidepressants, an anti-manic drug is also recommended to prevent depression. Other medications can also produce a “high” similar to mania, including appetite suppressants, illicit drugs such as cocaine and designer drugs, non-psychiatric medications, or excessive caffeine.

Hypomania Symptoms

Mania and hypomania are two different types of episodes but with the same symptoms. Mania is more severe and can cause more troubles at work, school, or at home. People having a hypomanic or manic episode may experience the following symptoms:

  • Feel very elevated or overjoyed
  • Talk very quickly
  • Feel self-important
  • Feel jumpy
  • Have troubles sleeping
  • Spend large amounts of money
  • Have reckless sex
  • Be agitated
  • Have increased activity levels
  • Feel full of great new ideas
  • Have important plans
  • Be easily distracted
  • Be delusional
  • Not eating


Symptoms of Bipolar Depression

During a major depressive episode, individuals experience severe symptoms that can cause difficulty in day-today-activities, including work, school, relationships, or social activities. A depressive episode includes the following symptoms:

  • Feeling sad and empty
  • Feeling hopeless or tearful
  • No interest in almost all activities
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling unworthy
  • Decreased ability to think and concentrate
  • Self-doubt
  • Being delusional or having illogical thinking
  • Waking up early
  • Thinking, planning, or committing suicide


Bipolar Disorder and Other Illnesses

According to research, some bipolar disorder symptoms are similar to other illnesses, making it harder for medical personnel to make an accurate diagnosis. Furthermore, bipolar people are also at higher risk for developing thyroid disease, migraine headaches, diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses.

Psychosis – in individual battling with bipolar disorder can also show psychotic symptoms like delusions or hallucinations. For example, an individual with psychotic symptoms during a manic episode may think they have special powers or a lot of money. During a depressive episode, that individual may think they are penniless or that they have committed a crime.

Anxiety and ADHD – People with bipolar disorder can also be battling with anxiety disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Roughly 10 to 20% of adults living with bipolar disorder also have ADHD. In addition, studies show that 50% of patients have a lifetime anxiety disorder together with bipolar disorder.

Substance Abuse – Unfortunately, bipolar people may also misuse drugs or alcohol, thus have major relationship problems and do poorly at school or work. About 60% of people with bipolar disorder also abuse drugs or alcohol.



Since bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, getting treatment from a mental health professional with experience in bipolar disorder can help individuals get their symptoms under control. Depending on individual’s needs, treatment may include:


Different kinds of medications are used to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications include mood stabilizers, atypical anti-psychotics, and antidepressants. Anyone taking a medication should first consult their doctor or pharmacist to understand the risks and benefits of the specific medication.


This type of treatment is an essential part and it can be offered in individual, family, or group meetings. There are multiple kinds of psychotherapy and the most commonly used ones are Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychoeducation, and family-focused therapy.

Alternative Medicine

Alternative treatments may be beneficial when used along with traditional treatments. Supplements and herbs like fish oil, rhodiola rosea, SAMe, St. John’s Wort, and Chinese traditional medicine may relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Residential Inpatient Bipolar Disorder Treatment Centers

The inpatient treatment centers have proven to be highly beneficial when it comes to treating bipolar disorder. Individuals here live in the facility while receiving a continuum of care. The advantages are numerous, including an around-the-clock medical supervision that will assist patients in regulating their daily schedule. Furthermore, patients will also receive professional assistance regarding the use of medications as vital part of their customized treatment plan. In addition to medication and supervision, patients here will also engage in cardiovascular exercises, improve their nutrition, and participate in many leisure social activities.

Outpatient Treatment Programs

If the patient is not able to leave home to attend treatment, then outpatient bipolar disorder rehab programs are also available. These programs allow patients to continue to live at home during rehabilitation and they also tend to cost less than residential inpatient treatment. In addition, patients might also wish to attend an outpatient program after successfully completing a residential program and need further support.

For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.

Comments are closed.