What is Bipolar Disorder?

Psychologists are frequently studying and attempting to understand behavior, mental processes, and brain functions. There are several factors that influence the mind and behavior such as social, environmental, and biological. These influences can cause abnormalities in brain structure that are recognized as mental disorders in the DSM-V. There are a plethora of mental illnesses. A vast amount of research and literature has been published to explain the many forms of mental disorders. Bipolar disorder is an extreme mental illness that is one of the leading causes of disability in the nation. With this disorder, emotions become intense and many times unpredictable and magnified (APA,2010). There are various psychological perspectives that can be used to explain the abnormalities that are cause for the symptoms of bipolar, just as different literature influences the ideas behind how it is treated.

Bipolar Disorder, once known as manic depressive disorder, is a mental disorder causing erratic shifts in energy, mood, activity levels, concentration, and ability to perform daily tasks (NIMH, 2020). There are three types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar 1, Bipolar 2, and Cyclothymia disorder. All three include fluctuations in mood, energy, and activity levels. Moods fluctuate from highs to lows. This includes highs of manic episodes that involve elation, irritability, and energetic behavior. Lows of depression involve being down, sad, hopeless. Hypomanic episodes involve less severe manic periods (NIMH, 2020).

SYMPTOMS Symptoms of bipolar disorder include fluctuations of extremes of highs and lows, known as manic and depressive episodes. These episodes can last days, weeks, or sometimes longer. Emotions are unusually intense and customarily have harmful or undesirable effects. Manic symptoms include feelings of elation, irritability, high energy, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, and impulsive behavior. Depressive episodes involve symptoms of feeling down and hopeless, loss of interest in activities, trouble sleeping, concentrating, and with appetite (APA, 2020).

Treatment Many people can benefit from treatment for bipolar disorder, even those with the most severe conditions. The most effective treatment plans include a combination of medication and Psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy”. Long term treatment can typically help people manage their symptoms.

Medications typically include: antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and/or anti-depressants.

Most people need to try various medications and treatment formats before finding one that works for them. Other forms of therapy include Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Transcranial Magnetic Therapy (TMC). (NIMH, 2020).


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5


National Institute of Mental Health


American Psychological Association

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