What is Bipolar Disorder?

Quick Facts:

  • Bipolar Disorder is characterized by severe mood swings, in which an individual can go from a very highly energized euphoric state (mania, or a milder form called hypomania) to a depressed, very low, unmotivated, and lethargic state (depression).
  • Manic states can last from a few days to a month or more.
  • Depressive states can last much longer, from several weeks to several months.
  • Mania presents itself like a range of moods from euphoria to irritability and anger
  • Depression presents itself like a range of moods from sadness to complete immovability and even suicidal thoughts
  • About 1 in every 50 people has bipolar disorder
  • It most often affects a person for the first time in adolescence or young adulthood.
  • About 1% of the worlds population suffer from Bipolar Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder is really a collection or grouping of symptoms that go together
  • Bipolar disorder is influenced from genes, biology (biological vulnerability), physical/emotional/mental environments (past & present), physical trauma, childhood trauma and stress (physical/emotional/mental)
  • A Bipolar Episode is like a wave – there’s 3 main phases: build up, actual episode and recovery
  • Episodes can last from a few days to months
  • Some people switch polarities during an episode (from euphoric to sad)
  • Cognitive impairment is part of the disorder (it’s tough to make good skillful choices)
  • People who have Bipolar Disorder have been found to have vulnerable brains so be gentle and compassionate with us

Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression is a mood disorder, and is the name given to the experience of abnormal moods or exaggerated mood swings.

This illness is characterized by the experience of extremely “high” moods where one becomes extremely euphoric or elated, and the experience of extremely “low” moods where one becomes extremely sad and finds it difficult to experience pleasure of any kind and may be overcome and overwhelmed to the point of immovability and seclusion.

The high moods are called manic episodes or mania and the low moods are called depressive episodes or depression.

Episodes can range from mild and barely noticeable to severe and apparent.

Any kind of episode can and will affect how a person with Bipolar Disorder thinks, speaks, feels snd acts.


Each individual with Bipolar Disorder is unique and the disorder can present itself in a wide range of expressions which makes it so difficult to live with and even diagnose properly.

One person may swing hard, high and fast into mania. While another may experience a slow unfolding of an episode over a longer period of time.

For me I use my sleep rhythms as a baseline for tracking And keeping on top of my Bipolar Disorder as I’ve found this gives me a better and more stable baseline to judge against compared to tracking moods. As moods are fleeting and changing constantly based in some many inner and outer variables even in the most grounded and stable individuals.

Bipolar Disorder has been discovered in about 1% of the population. Some reports say 1 in every 50 people have Bipolar Disorder. While others say that it’s about 1 in every 100 that will experience an episode that will probably require hospital care.

For me I’ve been hospitalized 2 major times.

And in my openness about my own journey and Bipolar diagnosis I’ve met countless people from all walks of life who are either living with Bipolar or who have a friend or relative who has the disease

This illness affects men and women equally, and typically shows itself in your early to late 20s.

Manic Episodes
Mania is an extreme mood state of this disorder.

It usually shows itself as the individual pumped up with elevated moods that could even be described as euphoric or heavenly even.

Sometime they appear extremely driven with a million things and ideas on the go.

And other times the individual can easily and quickly fly of the handle, reply sharply with a snap of the tongue that cuts you to the heart.

Hypomania is the term given to the more moderate form of elevated mood.

It can be managed often without the need for hospitalization as the person remains in contact with reality.

However, it is very easy to move rapidly from hypomania into a manic episode.

This why having a balanced, stable, healthy and happy life is crucial for people loving with Bipolar Disorder.

Symptoms of Mania Include:

Irritability: Irritability as described in the Oxford dictionary means “quick to anger, touchy.”

Many people, when in an elevated mood state, experience a rapid flow of ideas and thoughts.

Because of this rapid thought process, they become easily angered when people don’t seem to comprehend their ideas or enthusiasm for some new scheme.

Decreased Need for Sleep: One of the most common symptoms of mania and often an early warning sign is the increased experience of energy and lack of need for sleep.

Rapid Flow of Ideas: People who are becoming manic experience an increase in the speed at which they think. They move more quickly from one subject to another.

Sometimes thoughts can become so rapid that they begin to make no sense, developing into a jumbled, incoherent message that the listener can no longer understand.

Grandiose Ideas: It’s common for people who are manic to think that they’re more talented than others, or have unique gifts.

As the person’s mood becomes more elevated, these beliefs can become delusional in nature, with people.

Uncharacteristically Poor Judgement: A person’s ability to make rational decisions can become impaired and they may make inappropriate decisions or decisions that are out of character.

Increased Sexual Drive: People when they become manic often experience increased libido, and may make less well-judged decisions about the sexual partners.

Source: What is Bipolar Disorder? https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Bipolar

Depressive Episodes

Depression is a mood state that is normally characterized by a significantly lowered mood.

Depending on the duration, persistency and depth or severity of the presence of depressive signs which characterize a depressive mood one can better see and know if a person is experiencing a major depressive episode.

This is the other side of the disorder.

For me I tend to swing toward the mania side with smaller episodes of depression or low mood.

But there are so many people that find themselves on this low end of the disorder.

The Most Common Symptoms of Depression Include:

Persistent Sad, Anxious, or Empty Mood: People often describe depression as an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness.

They may experience a loss of enjoyment in the activities of everyday life that they used to take a lot of pleasure in.

Poor or disrupted sleep: A person when they are depressed often experience sleep disturbances, and this can be due to increased anxiety.

They then find it difficult to fall asleep, or wake up frequently during the night worrying about day-to-day events or wake early in the morning and are unable to get back to sleep.

Feelings of Worthlessness or Hopelessness: Sometimes people become overwhelmed with a sense of their own inability to be of use to anyone, and can become convinced that they are useless and worthless.

Thoughts may revolve around the hopelessness of the situation and the future.

Decreased Interest in Sex: As the person becomes more depressed, they gradually become less interested in social activities and sex.

Poor Concentration: Thinking can become slowed and the person can have difficulty in making decisions. They find it difficult to concentrate on reading a book or on the day to day tasks such as shopping.

This can often create anxiety or agitation in a person.

Thoughts of Suicide, or Suicide Attempts: When a person becomes overwhelmed by their feelings of hopelessness and despair, they may have thoughts of ending their lives or make plans to commit suicide.

Source: What is Bipolar Disorder? https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Bipolar

Mixed Episodes

Mixed episode types experience both depression and mania nearly everyday sometimes.

It’s quite the rollercoaster of emotions which can burn out an individual with the form of Bipolar Disorder quickly.

A person that is diagnosed with Mixed Episode Bipolar Episode can experience a rapid cycling of emotional experiences like: anger, irritability, euphoria, sadness, and there is more thsn likely the experience of lack and loss of sleep and even may become an insomniac for awhile.

They also make be quickly agitated, and even experience hallucinations and delusions, hear voices and have suicidal thoughts, etc.