Understanding How Bipolar Disorder Works

Discover how bipolar disorder works and which treatment options can help in this comprehensive article.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes intense shifts in mood, energy, and concentration, characterized by ups and downs. Those ups and downs are called manic and depressive episodes. Learning the characteristics of these two types of episodes will help better understand how bipolar disorder works.

What Is a Manic Episode?

When someone with bipolar experiences mania, they may feel abnormally energized, euphoric, or upbeat. While these symptoms seem positive, their extreme nature can seriously affect daily life.

Additional symptoms include increased irritability, racing thoughts, distractibility, and impulsiveness. These moods can often cause someone to make irrational decisions or even have different compulsive behaviors. Mania can also trigger psychosis (loss of touch with reality), leading to potentially dangerous behaviors.

What Is a Depressive Episode?

On the opposite end of bipolar are depressive episodes, where the person will feel noticeably down. Depressive episodes can cause severe fatigue, sadness, or hopelessness. These moods can lead to significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or oversleeping, difficulty concentrating, or suicidal thoughts.

It can seem confusing to watch someone flip between these two opposite moods. This is why it’s essential to learn about how bipolar disorder works to gain a better understanding of the symptoms.

What Are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorders?

To understand how bipolar disorder works, it’s best to learn about the different types. The three main types of bipolar are:1

  • Bipolar I
  • Bipolar II
  • Cyclothymic disorder

About 2.5% of the U.S. population suffers from bipolar dipolar each year. That’s why resources to treat bipolar disorder are so important.2

The next sections will cover each of these types of bipolar in detail.

What Is Bipolar I and How Does it Work?

Bipolar I is the most severe form of bipolar. It consists of manic episodes that last at least one week and depressive episodes that last at least two weeks. Manic episodes of bipolar I are severe, typically requiring medical care. The person will seem to have an exaggerated euphoric mood with increased energy, talkativeness, agitation, and poor decision-making. They may also experience psychosis.

Depressive episodes of bipolar I can cause someone to feel extreme emptiness, worthlessness, or guilt. They may lose interest in activities, struggle with work, school, or relationships, and have difficulty with self-care (e.g., eating or sleeping too much or too little). Depressive episodes can also lead to thoughts or attempts of suicide.

What Is Bipolar II and How Does it Work?

The main difference between bipolar I and II is the severity of manic episodes. Someone with bipolar II will rarely, if ever, have a full manic episode. Instead, they will experience short and infrequent bouts of hypomania. Hypomania shares the same symptoms as mania, but the episodes are less severe.3

Someone with bipolar II will still have an elevated mood and increased energy. They may talk fast or seem to have thoughts all over the place. However, these moods are usually shorter in duration and still less severe than bipolar I.

While the manic episodes aren’t as severe, the depressive episodes of bipolar II still have the same severity as bipolar I. Someone with bipolar II will generally exhibit more signs of depression than mania. Medical professionals may misdiagnose bipolar II as depression for that reason. Thus, understanding how bipolar disorder works is crucial, allowing you to recognize the signs and prevent misdiagnosis.

What Is Cyclothymic Disorder and How Does it Work?

Cyclothymic disorder, also called cyclothymia, is the least severe form of bipolar. Someone with cyclothymia won’t ever have a full manic or depressive episode. Instead, they will have short bouts of manic or depressive symptoms lasting a few days or less. These episodes can even be irregular or infrequent.

Due to the irregular nature of manic and depressive symptoms, cyclothymic disorder isn’t always as easy to diagnose. Going to a treatment center with highly-trained professionals that understand how bipolar disorder works will be the best way to get a proper diagnosis of the different types of bipolar disorder.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

One of the leading causes of bipolar disorder is genetics. In fact, twin studies have indicated that genetics play a role in 60%–85% of bipolar diagnoses.4

Certain genes can be passed down from generation to generation, meaning those with a family history of bipolar may be more at risk. Other factors that could cause or worsen bipolar disorder include:

  • Trauma or abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Highly stressful situations
  • Substance abuse

What Should You Do if You’re Displaying Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

If you or someone you know is displaying symptoms of bipolar disorder, seeing a doctor or contacting a treatment center is a good first step. Treatment professionals who specialize in mental health will know how bipolar disorder works to provide an accurate diagnosis.

What Is the Diagnostic Process for Bipolar Disorder?

The diagnostic process for bipolar will consist of a full medical exam. Medical professionals will get to know the individual, their symptoms, and other aspects of their life and background. 

The most common way to diagnose bipolar is using the DSM-5 criteria. The DSM-5 uses a series of questions and symptoms to help identify mental health issues and their severity.

What Treatment Options Are Available for Bipolar Disorder?

Treatment professionals who understand how bipolar disorder works will provide you with a well-rounded treatment plan tailored to your needs. The most common treatment options for bipolar are:

  • Therapies such as CBT, DBT, group therapy, or family therapy
  • Working on life skills and developing coping strategies
  • Improving lifestyle factors and incorporating healthy habits
  • Medications, if seen as necessary by treatment professionals
  • Inpatient or outpatient treatment at a treatment center
  • Support groups

The type of treatment necessary will depend on the individual and the severity of their condition.

How Bipolar Disorder Works

Get Help With Bipolar Disorder at Advaita Integrated Medicine

If you’re wondering how bipolar disorder works and looking for treatment options, Advaita Integrated Medicine (Advaita Integrated Medicine) can help. We are a holistic treatment center in Raleigh, North Carolina. We provide treatment for mental health and substance use disorders using evidence-based practices that consider the whole individual and their experiences. 

Our treatment methods provide well-rounded strategies that create higher success rates with long-term solutions. We’ll help you develop and implement coping strategies and healthy habits. We also offer aftercare services, like continued therapy, once you complete your initial treatment to help you lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

Contact Us Today for Bipolar Disorder Treatment

At Advaita Integrated Medicine, we have treatment professionals who are highly trained and know how bipolar disorder works to create effective treatment plans for success.

To learn more about Advaita Integrated Medicine, our treatment options, or how bipolar disorder works, you can contact us today. We’re here to answer any other questions you may have.

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Reach out to Advaita Integrated Medicine today and let us guide you toward a full and rewarding life uninhibited by mental health or substance use disorder challenges. We are here to support you every step of the way.

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