Do you know what bipolar disorder actually is? There are many false beliefs surrounding the disorder, encouraged by the casual use of the term. Learn more about the psychiatric definition of bipolar manic depression. “Oh, stop being so bipolar.”

You’ve likely heard it before. You might have even used it yourself to describe someone in your own life. If someone is quick to anger or experiences a sudden shift in mood, the label “bipolar” is often tossed out. This off-hand use of the word, though, has led to a drastic misunderstanding of those with a true bipolar diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder, commonly referred to as bipolar manic depression, is a psychiatric diagnosis that is characterized by extreme shifts in mood and energy levels. It is not used to describe someone who experiences mood swings from time to time; it is a serious diagnosis for those whose symptoms often impact their ability to perform even the most basic daily tasks.

The manic and depressive episodes experience by those with bipolar are not something that a person can simply “cut out.” Continue reading to develop a better understanding of bipolar disorder and how it impacts the lives of those who struggle with it.

What is Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder: Signs, Facts, Causes, Treatment

Bipolar disorder is a mental disorder consisting of extreme shifts in mood. Find out more about bipolar disorder, signs and symptoms, and how to treat it.

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Diving Deeper Into Bipolar Manic Depression

Bipolar disorder is distinguished by two drastic changes in energy levels. There are times when the individual is incredibly energized and excited, or feeling “up” (referred to as manic episodes), and other times when they are sad and lethargic, or feeling “down” (referred to as depressive episodes). These shifts in mood are where the term bipolar manic depression originate from.

Both manic and depressive episodes are extremely distinct from one another. You can easily tell when someone is in the midst of a period of depression or mania depending on the symptoms they exhibit. While not every person with bipolar disorder will experience every symptom, they will show at least a few of each during both types of episodes.

What Does a Depressive Episode Look Like?

During a depressive episode, the individual shows signs seen in someone with Major Depressive Disorder. They have low energy levels and are incredibly “down in the dumps.” Many times they may not want to leave their house, preferring to be alone and away from people.

Other signs of a depressive episode include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • An extreme lack of energy
  • Noticeably decreased activity levels
  • Having difficulties sleeping or sleeping too much
  • A lack of enjoyment for activities they usually enjoy
  • Feelings of worry or anxiety
  • Experiencing difficulties concentrating
  • Lack of focus or forgetting things
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Thoughts of depression
  • Suicidal ideation

What Does a Manic Episode Look Like?

During a manic episode, the person will usually swing to the complete opposite end of the mood spectrum. They often are full of energy, replacing their feelings of depression with exuberance and overconfidence.

Other side effects of a manic episode include:

  • Extreme feelings of elation, almost feeling “high”
  • Having exceptional amounts of energy
  • Increased levels of activity
  • Having difficulties sleeping
  • Speaking faster than normal about seemingly random things
  • Feeling “wired”
  • Feeling on edge, irritable, or agitated
  • Experiencing rapid-fire thoughts that are “faster” than normal
  • Holding beliefs that they can do many things at a time
  • Putting themselves in risky situations
  • Participating in risky behaviors like alcohol or drug use, excessive spending, or reckless sex

The Four Types of Bipolar Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) categorizes bipolar manic depressive disorder into four categories. While the four categories share commonalities, there are noticeable differences in the severity of the symptoms experienced in each.

Bipolar I Disorder

A psychologist or psychiatrist will diagnose an individual with Bipolar I
Disorder when they:

  • Have a manic episode lasting at least or longer than seven (7) days
  • Have a depressive episode lasting at least or longer than two (2) weeks

The manic episodes experienced by those with Bipolar I are often so severe that the person requires immediate hospitalization. They are usually incredibly reckless during these periods of mania to the point of putting themselves into harmful situations.

People with Bipolar I may also experience mixed episodes, or times where they show signs of both mania and depression at the same time.

Bipolar II Disorder

Individuals with Bipolar II disorder experience a pattern of both manic and depressive episodes similar to those with Bipolar I. Their episodes last for lengths of time like Bipolar I, but their manic episodes are not as severe. Though they participate in risky behaviors, they do not require immediate medical attention.

Bipolar II is more manageable but still causes difficulties navigating life. The mania can cause destruction that makes the depressive episodes more severe.

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Those who have cyclothymia live with an unstable mood state, swinging back and forth between hypermanic and mild depressive episodes for two years or longer. They may have periods of time where they experience a “normal” mood, but these periods never last longer than eight weeks.

Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar Disorders

When someone experiences episodes of mania and depression but do not fit the categories of Bipolar I, Bipolar II, or Cyclothymic Disorder, they are categorized as having an “other specified” or “unspecified” bipolar disorder. Though they may not live with full-blown manic and depressive episodes, they still have significant and noticeable shifts in mood and energy levels.

Living Live with Bipolar II - Hawaii Island Recovery
Living Live with Bipolar II

There is widespread misunderstanding about Bipolar Disorder, starting with the fact that there are four types, including Bipolar I and Bipolar II.

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Managing Life with Bipolar Disorder

Living life with bipolar manic depressive disorder can often feel incredibly chaotic. Some may have a predictable pattern of ups and downs while others never know when the next shift will occur. This leads to lots of unpredictability and difficulties managing day-to-day tasks. Oftentimes the depressive episode is spent cleaning up the wreckage caused during the manic episode.

While there is no “cure” for bipolar disorder, individuals can learn to manage and live with their manic and depressive episodes. Through the assistance of medication and therapy sessions with a psychiatrist or psychologist, individuals can learn to manage their manic and depressive episodes. Aiming for a state of balance is the goal in treating bipolar disorder.

An estimated 5.7 million Americans live with some form of bipolar disorder. Are you struggling with bipolar manic depression or do you know someone who exhibits symptoms of the disorder? Attending treatment at a facility like Hawaii Island Recovery can help you or your loved one learn to manage their symptoms. The caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable team is qualified to work with those learning to live with their bipolar disorder.

There is no need to attempt to manage bipolar on your own. Call to Hawaii Island Recovery today to learn more about the treatment options available to you or your loved one! 877-721-3556