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Bipolar Disorder

Article by: Fiona L.

Bipolar disorder, or manic-depressive illness, is a mental disorder that causes significant mood swings. Bipolar disorder can cause people to have manic episodes, when they feel super elated and energized, or depressive episodes, when they feel empty and hopeless. These two are polar opposites, hence the name “bipolar”.

Episodes can last for days, weeks, or sometimes, even years. There are four major types of bipolar disorders.

Bipolar Ⅰ disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or manic symptoms so severe that the person needs to be hospitalized immediately. Depressive episodes may also occur, lasting for around 2 weeks. Sometimes mixed episodes with features of both may occur too.

Bipolar Ⅱ disorder is determined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, which are less extreme than manic episodes described above.

Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a type of bipolar disorder defined by numerous periods of hypomanic periods and depressive periods lasting at least two years for adults and one year for children and adolescents.

Unspecified disorders are disorders that do not match the three categories above.

People having a manic episode can feel very “high”, elated, and happy. They can have trouble sleeping and be more irritable, or touchy. People having a depressive episode can have decreased energy levels, feel like they can’t enjoy anything, and think about death or suicide.

Bipolar disorder is usually more common in people who have family members with bipolar. Brain chemical and hormonal imbalances also seem to trigger bipolar, and environmental factors such as abuse, stress, or a traumatic loss can trigger it too, though it is not clear. Bipolar disorder affects the part of the brain known as the hippocampus, which indirectly affects mood and impulses.

Although bipolar disorder can be severe at times, people with bipolar disorder can lead normal lives. We can help people with bipolar by listening to them, and doing our best to help them when they are having an episode. With the right support, people with bipolar disorder can lead happy, successful lives.


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