Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Causes Expert Insights

Everything You Need To Know About Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Causes

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health condition characterized by extreme mood swings, including manic or hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes. The precise cause of bipolar disorder remains unknown. However, a combination of genetics, altered brain structure, environment, and changes in brain chemistry may play a crucial role.

Bipolar disorder affects people in different ways, and symptoms can vary in intensity and duration. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience significant and often unpredictable mood swings, which can include episodes of both depression and mania or hypomania.

Common symptoms of manic episodes may include high energy, loss of touch with reality, and reduced desire for sleep. On the other hand, depressive episodes may include serious symptoms such as low motivation, low energy, and loss of interest in even daily activities. Sometimes, mood episodes may lead to suicidal thoughts.

The lifelong condition should be treated with a combination of prescribed medications and psychotherapy. This can help manage your mood swings and other symptoms.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar I Disorder: The condition involves episodes of severe mood changes from mania to depression.
  • Bipolar II Disorder: It is a milder form of bipolar disorder involving mood elevation and milder episodes of hypomania alternating with phases of severe depression.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: The condition describes short-term periods of hypomanic symptoms that alternate with brief periods of depressive symptoms. The symptoms are mild and not as extensive or long-lasting as observed in full hypomanic episodes/depressive episodes.
  • Mixed Features: The condition is characterized by simultaneous symptoms of contradictory mood polarities for the duration of depressive, manic, or hypomanic episodes. The major symptoms include racing thoughts, high energy, and sleeplessness. The patient may experience strong feelings of hopelessness, irritability, despair, and even suicidal thoughts.
  • Rapid Cycling: This term refers to a condition causing four or more mood episodes in 12 months. These episodes last for a minimum number of days. Some individuals also experience variations in polarity ranging from high to low or vice-versa in a single week, or even a single day.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms may vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder one has. For instance, Bipolar I disorder may lead to a manic episode preceded or followed by a depressive episode. Bipolar II disorder results in a hypomanic episode. Psychosis may be involved in some cases (seeing or hearing things that are not there or having delusional thoughts).

Common symptoms of manic episodes may include high energy, loss of touch with reality, and reduced desire for sleep. On the other hand, depressive episodes may include serious symptoms such as low motivation, low energy, and loss of interest in even daily activities. Sometimes, mood episodes may lead to suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms of Mania may include the following:

  • High sex drive
  • Fast speech
  • Lack of concentration
  • Decreased need/desire for sleep without any dip in energy
  • Increase in impulsivity
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Symptoms of Depression may include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • A strong feeling of hopelessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Appetite changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sleeping too much
  • Frequent thoughts of death/suicide
  • Attempting suicide

It is crucial to call an emergency number, remove all things that may cause harm, and stay with the person if you feel someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting someone else.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unidentified. However, quite a few factors may be involved, including the following:

  • Biological Differences: Individuals with bipolar disorder are known to develop physical changes in their brains.
  • Genetics: Bipolar disorder is more common among individuals with a first-degree relative sibling or parent with the condition.

Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder

There are several types of diagnosing bipolar disorder. Here are some common methods:

Physical Exam

A physical exam and lab tests can identify any medical problems causing symptoms.

Psychiatric Assessment

A psychiatrist will discuss patients' thoughts, feelings, and behavior patterns. Patients require filling out a psychological self-assessment or questionnaire.

Mood Charting

Patients should keep a daily record of moods, sleep patterns, or other factors that may help with diagnosis. This is important to find the proper treatment.

Risk Factors

No single risk factor determines whether an individual is at high risk of developing bipolar disorder. Scientists have revealed that multiple risk factors may be responsible for triggering the illness. Some of the known risk factors include the following:

Genetics: As discussed above, Bipolar Disorder may run in families. Children with a parent or sibling with Bipolar Disorder are more vulnerable to developing the condition than those without affected family members.

Environment: In some cases, a stressful incident or significant life change (onset of a medical issue, loss of a loved one) triggers bipolar disorder in an individual.

Drug Abuse: Drug Abuse may be a significant cause of triggering bipolar disorder. It is estimated that around 60% of individuals with bipolar disorder are heavily dependent on drugs or alcohol.

Mental Health:Individuals with seasonal depression or disorders linked to anxiety may also be at high risk for developing bipolar disorder.

Brain Structure: Specialists can get images of the brain by using the following types of scans:

  1. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)
  2. Positron Emission Technology (PET)

Some findings on these brain scans may be associated with bipolar disorder.

The best way to deal with the condition is by being mindful of your risk factors. Speak to your doctor about the mental or behavioral symptoms you experience.

Complications And Associated Risk with Bipolar Disease

Living with Bipolar Disease is not easy. It is crucial to make some serious and consistent lifestyle changes to stop cycles of behavior that aggravate the disorder. Initially, one needs to quit drinking or using recreational drugs.

Special efforts should be made to develop healthy relationships. Being with individuals having a positive influence and are eager to offer support can help. Your friends and family should help you watch for warning signs of mood shifts.

Patients with bipolar disease should make special efforts to make a routine for sleeping, eating, and physical activity. This is important for balancing your moods. An exercise program should only be started under the supervision of a doctor.

Do not take any medications without consulting the doctor treating you for bipolar disorder. Keeping a mood chart, recording treatments, sleep, daily activities, and feelings may help identify triggers. The doctor will help you with effective treatment options.


Once diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the doctor may prescribe specific strategies to help prevent minor symptoms leading to full-blown episodes of mania or depression. These steps may include the following the guidance of a skilled and experienced medical professional:

Warning Signs

It is essential to understand warning signs to address symptoms early to prevent episodes from worsening. Patients usually have an identified pattern of bipolar episodes and things that triggers them. Speak to your doctor if you feel you are falling into an episode of depression or mania. It is recommended to involve family members or friends who can keep a watch for warning signs.

No Drugs and Alcohol

Alcohol or recreational drugs are dangerous for bipolar patients as these can worsen symptoms and increase the likelihood of symptoms returning.


It is crucial to have medications strictly as directed by the doctor treating you. Strictly avoid stopping the treatment without speaking to the doctor, even if you feel fine. Stopping medication abruptly or reducing dosage may cause withdrawal effects or cause symptoms to get worse.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bipolar disorder is a potentially serious mental illness. The illness is known to worsen if left untreated. The patient can engage in risky behavior during manic episodes, such as unsafe sex, drug use, or self-harm (in case of a depressive episode).

Yes. However, one must stay committed to the long-term care of symptoms which requires support from friends and family. Consistent care may be challenging due to patients making poor decisions during a manic or depressive episode. A sense of community combined with other treatments can treat BPD to help patients lead full and happy lives.

Studies have revealed that about 42% of the variation in BPD is caused by genetics. The rest, 58%, is caused by other factors, including the environment. These studies suggest that BPD is strongly linked to genetic causes.

Unfortunately, No! Currently, there is no test to diagnose an individual's risk of developing bipolar disorder. It is also difficult to suggest if they are carriers of genetic differences.

A Borderline Personality disorder typically starts during early adulthood. Gradually, the condition may worsen in young adulthood. The condition may gradually get better with age.

Bipolar disorder can be treated with inpatient and outpatient programs. Outpatient programs are based on behavioral therapy to manage impulsive behavior. On the other hand, inpatient mental health facilities involve medical evaluation and proper treatment planning. The doctor will suggest the best option for you.

A borderline personality disorder is challenging to diagnose due to its elusive nature. The most accurate mental health diagnosis can be made after a comprehensive evaluation by one or more qualified mental health professionals.

Yes. Bipolar disorder may lead to extreme behavior and inability to function at work, in social situations, in the family, or in relationships. Unfortunately, BPD is the fifth leading cause of disability worldwide and the ninth leading cause of years lost to death worldwide. The condition increases the risk of suicide among patients (60 times higher than the general population).

For More Information

Just give us a call at 305-284-7500 or click the button below.