What is bipolar disorder?
July 24, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

What is bipolar disorder?

اردو میں پڑھیں

Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, causes unusual shifts in mood, concentration, activity, and energy levels. It is a severe mental condition that, if left untreated, can adversely affect relationships, undermine career prospects, and compromise academic performance and eligibility. In some cases, it can lead to suicide.

Episodes of depression or euphoria can be severe but generally have periods of stability in between. Noradrenaline and serotonin are two brain chemical messengers that have been consistently linked to psychiatric mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder. 



The primary cause of the bipolar disorder is unknown; however, several factors can contribute to it, such as:


Bipolar disorder is more prevalent among people who have a first-degree relative, such as an offspring, a sibling, or a parent, with this condition. It is stated that genetic factors are responsible for approximately 80% of the people with bipolar disorder.

If a single parent has the disorder, the child is 10% likely to develop it.

If both parents have the disorder, there's a 40% chance that their child will develop it.


Hormonal changes

Hormonal imbalances in our body can trigger bipolar disorder. Changes in the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the body can lead to bipolar disorder.


Environmental factors

Mental stress, childhood abuse, neglect, verbal or physical abuse, and any kind of trauma can change brain structure and chemical function, which can lead to bipolar disorder.


Seasonal factors

Seasonal factors also play a role in the onset of bipolar disorder. Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels will drop. Low levels of serotonin are linked with a higher risk of depression and psychosis.


Drug abuse

In a study, it was found that 60% of people with bipolar disorder traits had some history of substance abuse. These include:

drugs like cocaine, barbiturates, ecstasy, and cannabis

medicine for hormonal problems like prednisolone or other corticosteroids, and

very large amounts of caffeine



Pregnancy causes hormonal changes that can alter your mood. Depression and bipolar disorder symptoms can become more prominent during pregnancy. It is not much of a problem if it is managed properly; however, the risk of depression is more significant if left untreated during pregnancy.

Types of bipolar disorders

Different types of bipolar disorders involve evident changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of excessive levels of confidence and self-esteem, increased activity and agitation, or energized behavior (manic episodes) to very down, sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (depressive episodes). Following are the different types:

1. Bipolar I disorder (mania and depression)

This consists of at least one manic or mixed episode causing social and occupational impairment, which lasts for seven days with varying degrees of depression, typically lasting at least two weeks. A person usually feels elated, a decreased need for sleep, hypersexual, and/or irritable.

2. Bipolar II disorder (hypomania and depression)

In this, a chronic depressive episode may last for two weeks or more with at least one hypomanic episode, typically lasting for four days.

People usually suffer from low-grade mania, but if not treated, it can lead to full mania. It tends to occur more frequently in women than in men. When it does occur in males, the duration of the hypomanic episode typically equals that of depressive episodes, whereas depression is more common in women.

3. Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS)

This is diagnosed when a person has symptoms of the illness but does not fall in the criteria of bipolar I or II. These symptoms may not last long enough, or the person faces insufficient symptoms to be diagnosed with bipolar I or II. However, those symptoms need to be out of the normal range of behavior to be diagnosed as BP-NOS.

4. Cyclothymic disorder (hypomania and mild depression)

It is defined by persistent hypomanic and depressive episodes that are not intense enough or long enough to qualify as hypomanic or depressive disorder. The symptoms usually occur for a minimum of two years in elders and one year in children and teenagers.

How to diagnose bipolar disorder

To diagnose this condition, a health care provider may:

Take a detailed history and complete a full physical exam.

Mood charting — they may ask you to keep a daily record of your moods and sleep patterns.

Order medical tests to rule out other illnesses.

Refer you for an evaluation by a mental health professional.



The purpose of treatment is to manage the symptoms as much as possible.

Depending on one's need, treatment may include:


Medicines, also known as mood-stabilizing drugs, may be required to balance moods right away.

Making healthy lifestyle choices, including having a regular sleep schedule, avoiding alcohol and drugs, exercising for at least 15 minutes every day, and minimizing stress. 

Psychological treatment, such as talking with a psychiatrist. 

When to see a doctor

People with this illness often don't recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Often, they don't get the treatment they need because of the stigma associated with bipolar disorder.

People with bipolar disorder usually enjoy feelings of euphoria. However, this euphoria is always accompanied by an emotional crash that may lead to hopelessness and depression, and in some cases, even suicide.

If you have any episodes of depression or mania, see your physician or mental health professional immediately. Mental conditions don't get better on their own. Companies like https://www.shifa4u.com/ provide online consultation during the pandemic with qualified doctors from all over the world to help people in despair.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.