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What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar Disorder: What is It?

Bipolar disorder is a type of medical condition characterized by abnormally and abrupt low and high mood swings. These mood swings are referred to as depression (refers to the low mood swings) and mania (refers to the high mood swings). There are three types of bipolar disorder. These include Type 1, Type 2, and Cyclothymia. While it may appear to an average observer that this kind of condition exhibits simply as “low and high mood swings,” this is actually a definition that has been over-simplified, as there is more to this disorder than just these mood swings.

The number of men experiencing bipolar disorder is the same as that of women suffering from
this type of condition. The average age that this medical condition is diagnosed at is between the ages of 15 to 25 years old. The main reason behind this is because this is the time wherein the common symptoms of bipolar disorder do not only manifest, but also affect the quality of the life being lived by the person suffering from it. While there are no known triggers and causes of the bipolar disorder, it appears that individuals who have relatives who were also diagnosed with this condition are more prone to also having this disorder. It is also important to note that this condition cannot be completely diagnosed until a certain manic period has been confirmed and observed by a trained medical practitioner. You might be interested in taking our Bipolar Test.

Before we take a closer look at the different bipolar disorder classifications and how these are diagnosed and assessed, it is crucial that you understand first the main differences between depression and mania.

Depression is period wherein a person experiences an extremely “low” mental state. A person
suffering from depression may always feel tired or may feel that he or she always has a low level of energy. Aside from these, periods of extreme sadness and sense of despair or desperation may also already mean that he or she is already suffering from depression. Lack of interest in the things that he or she found interesting before is also common. In more severe cases, psychotic symptoms such as visual and auditory hallucinations may also be experienced by a depressed person.

Mania, on the other hand, is a medical condition often characterized by a state of being wherein the person suffering from it experiences an intense “upbeat” emotion. A manic phase is also characterized by an over-inflated emotion of euphoria that usually results in the person feeling and thinking that he or she will be successful in whatever it is that he or she wants to do. This condition is also commonly characterized by a significantly reduced need for sleep, racing thoughts, extreme talkativeness, abnormally high levels of energy, and dangerous risk taking and decision making. While mania is usually associated with bubbly and excessive cheerfulness, it is more often associated with severe irritability. Visual and audio hallucinations are also common in more severe manic cases.

The first type of bipolar disorder has often been referred to before as “manic depression” by average individuals. However, with this condition becoming better understood, this term is no longer being used. A person suffering from Type 1 bipolar disorder has experienced at least one episode of being fully manic. He or she also had experienced several major periods of depression.

While the second type of bipolar disorder has often been mistaken for the first type, people who are suffering from Type 2 bipolar disorder has never had experienced a period wherein he or she has been fully manic. Instead, patients of Type 2 bipolar disease suffer from periods of hypomania (a condition characterized by having elevated energy levels with a tendency of being impulsive, but not as extreme as mania). In general, individuals suffering from the second type of bipolar disorder experience a cyclical pattern with periods of both depression and hypomania.

The third type of bipolar disorder, referred to as Cyclothymia, is characterized by significantly fewer periods of hypomania and depression. While these changes in the mood also happen in a cyclical pattern, these are more extreme and can occur as much as several times in a single day.

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