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*Bi-Polar Disorder & The Brain*

Updated on December 22, 2015

We all have our ups and downs in certain times of the day, but with bipolar disorder, these peaks and valleys are more severe. The symptoms of bipolar disorder can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships, and disrupt your daily life, this can have a huge impact on your life. And although it’s treatable, many people don’t recognize the warning signs and get the help they need. Since bipolar disorder tends to worsen without treatment, it’s important to learn what the symptoms look like. Recognizing the problem is the first step to getting better.

Bi- Polar and the many faces..

Bi-Polar Disorder

Bi-Polar Disorders

For people who are diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder, the normal emotions can become a roller coaster ride of wild highs and devastating lows. Moods are driven, not by the events of life, but by a force of their own. Bi-polar disorder (previously called manic-depressive illness) is a medical condition that involves changes in brain function leading to dramatic mood swings. These mood swings can be so severe that they impair normal functioning at work, and even relationships.

Mania often begins with a sense of raised energy, creativity and social ease feelings which can quickly progress to an extreme, continuous elevated mood involving an exaggerated sense of self-esteem, and an expansive or irritable mood. When manic, people become more physically active, talkative and distractible and show a reduced need for sleep. This could be compared to along the lines of ADHD, but of course that is a different disorder than Bi-Polar. They may not be aware that anything is wrong and may also enjoy the feeling mania brings.

Doctors have mentioned that there are four types of Bi-Polar Disorder:

1. Bipolar I Disorder—defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least seven days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at around 2 weeks.

2. Bipolar II Disorder—defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.

3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS)—diagnosed when symptoms of the illness exist but do not meet diagnostic criteria for either bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the person’s normal range of behavior.

4. Cyclothymic Disorder—a mild form of bipolar disorder. People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania as well as mild depression for at least 2 years. However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for any other type of bipolar disorder.

Bi-Polar Disorders

Substance Abuse

The most common thing amongst people who have Bi-Polar disorder is substance abuse, but the reasons for this link are unclear. Some people with bipolar disorder may try to treat their symptoms with alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse can also trigger or prolong bipolar symptoms, and the behavioral problems associated with mania can lead to drinking too much. Anxiety disorders, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, also can co occur with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder can cooccur with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well, which has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar disorder, such as restlessness and being easily distracted. However, the symptoms of ADHD are persistent, whereas those of bipolar disorder are episodic.

Bi-Polar Or ADHD?

There are certain differences between Bi-Polar and ADHD. Bipolar disorder is best known for the mood swings it causes. People with bipolar disorder move from manic or hypomanic highs to depressive lows ranging on a daily basis. Individuals are very likely to engage in risky financial and sexual behaviors, have feelings of inflated self-esteem, or use drugs and alcohol to excess. They may have thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

ADHD on the other hand is different from that of being diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. ADHD is most often diagnosed during childhood. It is characterized by difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. Boys tend to have higher rates of ADHD than girls.There are a variety of symptoms for patients diagnosed with ADHD:

  • trouble completing assignments or tasks
  • frequent daydreaming
  • frequent distraction and difficulty following directions
  • constant movement and squirming

In some cases there are some similarities between the manic episodes of bipolar disorder and ADHD. These include:

  • an increase in energy or being "on the go"
  • being easily distracted
  • talking a lot
  • frequently interrupting others

One of the biggest differences between the two is that bipolar disorder affects mood, whereas ADHD affects behavior and attention. Genes also play a large role in developing either condition. You should share any related family history with your primary care doctor to help with diagnosis. Some of the similar symptoms between the two include

  • impulsivity
  • inattention
  • hyperactivity
  • physical energy

PTSD & Bi-Polar Disorders

There have been a lot of research done on the topic of PTSD and Bi-Polar Disorders. The most recent studies have found that anywhere between 11% to 39% of bipolar patients also meet criteria for PTSD. It is not entirely surprising that high rates of PTSD are found among people with bipolar disorder, as many people with bipolar also have a history of traumatic exposure. Traumatic exposure may be more likely to occur during a manic episode when a person with bipolar disorder is more likely to make risky or impulsive decisions such as committing suicide. People with PTSD and Bi-polar disorder appear to have more problems across a number of different areas in their lives. For example, PTSD has been found to reduce quality of life among people with bipolar disorder. People with a diagnosis of PTSD are also at greater risk to attempt suicide. Among people who have had a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their lifetime, approximately 27% have also attempted suicide.

If you have PTSD, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you address your PTSD symptoms, the less likely they will become worse and will in turn increase your risk for depression.


Are you happy or Sad?


Depression in bipolar disorder is particularly dangerous and difficult to spot if mood is cycling between extremes. If you are at the risk of attempting suicide or your friends or family. Please visit your doctor or call 911 for Emergency purposes.


1 (800) 273-8255 -- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Bi-Polar Disorder and the Brain

5 out of 5 stars from 2 ratings of Bi-Polar Disorder and the Brain

© 2015 Mahsa S


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    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      Denise - It can be hard to deal with people who are Bi-Polar or have ADHD. Counseling is a great way to let out your feelings of a person and also one of the other things is that make sure to relax and keep yourself under control because from then on stress and depression can be unhealthy to the body and the mind. I hope that the medications will help them to keep themselves on track.

    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      MsDora - Yes they are very different things and it affects people differently. Also there are certain factors like family situations, the environment that you live in that how you are raised that can contribute to the person being Bi-Polar. One of the most important is how a mother treats herself during pregnancy, it can be a huge factor.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Having both family members and a boss with bipolar, sometimes, I am not sure if I am coming or going! My boss has both bipolar and ADHD. Thankfully, he is on medication that helps to regulate both his moods and his behavior. It is my job to help keep him organized and on track. As far as my children are concerned, I frequently am the one who helps them work through their emotional difficulties. That is why I see a counselor!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      "Bipolar disorder affects mood, whereas ADHD affects behavior and attention." So easy to learn for one who is interested. Thanks for all the information I learned here.