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Bipolar Disorder, What it is, Causes and Impact on Your Daily Life

Updated on August 27, 2014
Cynthianne profile image

Cynthianne has a B.S. in Psychology and is licensed in Astrology. She is autistic, as are three of her children.

Bipolar, The Storm Within

Bipolar disorder can be like an unpredictable storm. You know the signs, you know it is going to explode into a heavy storm sometime, but you may not know when or why.
Bipolar disorder can be like an unpredictable storm. You know the signs, you know it is going to explode into a heavy storm sometime, but you may not know when or why. | Source

The Basics

Bipolar Disorder is suspected when a person exhibits very happy, or high-like symptoms, followed by episodes of very low, depressed symptoms. This does not mean that the person is happy one day and the next day things are not going well, so they are sad. These symptoms are over the top, disproportionate to the situation.

The person with bipolar disorder may not understand why everyone around them are not as excited as the yellow duck, for example, as they are. It is not bad to be excited over a yellow duck; it is just the amount of enthusiasm shown for an ordinary object that is a signal. If that same yellow duck meant the person had just won a million dollars than any amount of excitement would be fine. Bipolar is the disorder of extremes of emotions and reactions. Bipolar ups and downs can cycle rapidly or slowly over a period of a day or months, depending on how the person is affected.


Studies are showing a possible link to genetics and Bipolar Disorder since it has been seen to run in families. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are studies being done on the genetics aspect. Not all scientists agree that genetics play a role in the development of Bipolar Disorder, but there is scientific data pointing that direction.

Bipolar Disorder Phenome Database

The goal of this database is to be able to watch for and link together symptoms with a genetic link. By doing so, the genetic aspect of Bipolar Disorder could be better understood.

As the studies continue, there may be genetic similarities found in those with Schizophrenic Disorder or Major Depressive Disorder. Once the genes are detected, on a consistent basis, then scientists may be able to learn what environmental factors, if any, trigger the disorders. It is thought by many scientists that environmental factors play a large role in the development of Bipolar Disorder, as well as other disorders with similar symptoms.

Genetic Kink in the Path

As genetics go, identical twins make perfect people to study for such genetic ties to Bipolar Disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health studies on identical twins with at least one twin having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder does not guarantee that the other twin will develop Bipolar Disorder even though the genetic make-up of the twins are identical. That makes it difficult for the scientists to say that without a doubt, Bipolar Disorder is genetic. Let’s look at other theories on the cause before we move on to symptoms.

MRIs and PET Scans

Technology is wonderful and having the ability to watch one’s brain in action has helped scientists understand the brain so much better than before these advances were available. Now scientists can look at the brain of an adult that has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and see that the prefrontal cortex is different than a person who does not have Bipolar Disorder or perhaps Schizophrenia Disorder. Scientists are still learning about how the shape and growth of the brain affects a person, especially since environmental factors can play a role in how that person develops, but these are exciting findings because they may lead to treatment options.

Possible Triggers

Bipolar Disorder may be triggered by a traumatic event such as a death of a loved one, a personal health issue, turning 20. The age of 20 seems to be a time when Bipolar Disorder begins to show itself. Drug or alcohol abuse can trigger the disorder as can long periods of high stress.

Alcohol Can Trigger an Episode


Angry During Manic Phase


Signs and Symptoms

Now that we have discussed the scientific aspect of Bipolar Disorder, let’s get to the meat of the issue, what the person displays, their symptoms and how that affects others.

Manic Mood Changes and Symptoms:

  • Feeling an inappropriate amount of happiness
  • Overly outgoing
  • Spontaneous
  • Extremely Irritable (manic episodes are not always happy)

Behavioral Changes

  • Talking fast, excited
  • Racing thoughts, not able to stay on topic
  • Easily distracted
  • Engaging, or starting many new activities at the same time, but not completing them
  • Having over inflated view of oneself or abilities
  • Impulsive to the point of danger to themselves or others.

Depressive Episode Symptoms:

  • Long period of being upset or depressed over a something others would not find upsetting.
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Feeling Suicidal

Behavioral Changes

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Sense of the world going by slowly, one day may feel like a week, for example
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions on their own
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Feeling the need to move all the time, fidgety
  • Irritable
  • Binge eating, or not eating, change in eating habits
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Suicidal thoughts or obsessed with thinking about death

One does not have to show extreme symptoms to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder they can show less severe signs. The signs will be the same, but not as “out there” not over the top completely but still not as what is considered normal. The mood swings will still happen.


How Do I Know I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Of course it is always best to get a professional opinion but here are two quizzes to get you started. The links are from

Bipolar Quiz

This quiz is a basic Bipolar Disorder quiz, it will give you an idea if you need to be seeking professional help or not. It is important to think about your reactions and feelings in general, how you are most of the time, not just isolated incidents.

Bipolar Depression Quiz

This quiz will let you know if you have signs that you suffer more from bipolar depression as opposed to Bipolar Manic. There are those with Bipolar Disorder that exhibit the “highs” the manic, happy or angry, than there is the Bipolar Depression where depression is more prevalent than the highs.

Three Types of Bipolar Disorder

I have given you quizzes for Bipolar and Bipolar Depression but it is important to know that there are different types, or levels of Bipolar, according to the Mayo Clinic online site.

The Three Types or Levels of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is the most difficult type to function with. Mood swings may be rapid; anger may come out of nowhere, depression hits and won’t release its effect on you. Your manic episodes and depression episodes are serious and disrupt your life.

Bipolar II

With Bipolar II, you may suffer hypomania, which is a less severe manic episode than with Bipolar I. The lows and highs are easier to manage and may cause some problems in your daily functioning but not as bad or as often as with Bipolar I.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is bipolar on a low scale. You have the highs and lows, you notice them, your friends may notice them, but they do not necessarily interrupt your life. They may inconvenience you, make you wonder sometimes why you reacted the way you did, but compared to the other forms of Bipolar Disorder, this is mild.

What To Do After Diagnosis

After you have been diagnosed with any of the Bipolar Disorders, it is very important to learn all you can about what you are going through. The more you understand what is going on, the better control you can have over the reactions you have. Follow your doctor’s advice and take your medication, even when you are feeling better. Many people think that since they are feeling better than they do not need the medications, but it may be the medications helping keep you in control.

Talk to your family and friends. Let them know what is going on. They can be very good support for you when you have manic or depressed, or even in between. Sometimes family members will not support such diagnosis because they do not want to think there is anything wrong or go to the trouble of thinking about how to best help you. Those can be natural reactions so do not give up. Seek out online support groups, and if your doctor has set you up with an in person support group, keep your meetings. There is no cure for bipolar, but through proper medication, support and knowledge, you can live a productive life.



Try Not to Let it Get You Down

To be diagnosed with a Bipolar Disorder may seem overwhelming, you can take charge and move forward.

© 2014 Cynthianne Neighbors


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    • Cynthianne profile image

      Cynthianne Neighbors 3 years ago

      It is always good to know how to respond or have a plan for the manic and depressive state of bipolar. I have a daughter who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and knowledge is most certainly a life saver!! I am so glad your daughter is responding to treatment and getting her life back on track. That is very positive. :) Thank you for sharing.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      My daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while away in college. She had a manic phase where she went into a business with another person, then in the depressive phase, the bottom dropped out of the enterprise and she ended up back at my home, devastated from the experience. We were able to get her to see professionals that helped her get back on track and functioning normally. Now we know what to plan for and look for to help her be successful in life.