Bipolar Disorder

Mental Health Awareness Month| Bipolar Disorder:Myths, Facts, Symptoms, Self-Help Tips

Overview Of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder can better be described as a mental health disorder causing unusual shifts in mood, activity levels, energy, concentrations, and your ability to carry out with your daily activities. In the past, bipolar disorder was referred to as manic depression or manic-depressive illness.

There are three recognized types of disorders with all of them involving changes of moods from manic episodes (irritable and energized behaviors) to depressive episodes (indifferent, sad, or hopeless periods). The less severe maniac attack is hypomanic episodes.

Despite the bipolar condition being referred to as a lifelong condition, it is very possible to manage your mood swings and other symptoms with the correct treatment plans. Bipolar disorders are treated through both psychotherapy and medications.

Myths And Facts About Bipolar Disorder

Myth 1: bipolar disorder only affects mood

Fact: bipolar disorder affects all body systems and your daily activities. It affects your energy levels, concentration, sleep quality, appetite, judgments, self-esteem, and sex drive. In some cases, bipolar disorders have been linked to substance abuse and alcoholism, anxiety, and health issues such as heart diseases and high blood pressure.

Myth 2: People living with bipolar cannot lead a normal life

Fact: there are the majority of bipolar individuals who are leading successful careers, satisfying relationships, and happy families. While living with bipolar is a bit challenging, proper, and healthy coping skills and support give a fulfilling life and makes it easy to manage the symptoms.

Myth 3: there is nothing that a bipolar individual can do to manage the symptoms apart from the medication

Fact: even if medication is viewed as a solid foundation in bipolar treatment, psychotherapy and self-help play a vital role in managing the symptoms.

Myth 4: individuals with bipolar disorders swing moods between mania and depression.

Fact: some individuals have episodes alternating from the two extremes, some are depressed more often, some experience manic episodes more often, some have very minor mania episodes while in others the bipolar disorder symptoms might go unnoticed.

Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder

This highly depends on the individual and the type of the bipolar disorder they have where the symptoms vary extensively in their frequency, pattern as well as severity. In some individuals, maniac episodes express more, others the depressing episodes, and in others the two alternates equally. In some people the symptoms shift more frequently and less frequently in others.

There are four kinds of mood episodes with each showing unique symptoms;

  • Mixed episodes
  • Hypomania
  • Mania
  • Depression

Mixed Episodes

Mixed episodes illustrate both symptoms of depression and mania where symptoms include;

  • Insomnia
  • Racing thoughts
  • Distractibility
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Depression


Hypomania bipolar individuals are likely to carry on with their daily activities without major challenges while others may only experience unusual good mood. Symptoms are;

  • Energetic
  • Poor decision making that may harm your career, or relationships
  • Feeling euphoric


  • Disrupted sleep pattern
  • Racing thoughts or hovering from one idea to another
  • Difficulties in concentrating
  • Unrealistic beliefs of one’s ability
  • Feeling highly irritable or optimistic
  • Unfair judgments
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Rapid talks that other people cannot stand you.
  • Recklessness without putting in mind the consequences

Bipolar Disorder Depression 

  • Feelings of guilt or worthless Failure to experience pleasure
  • Difficulties in sleeping
  • Weight and appetite loss
  • Feeling empty or hapless Suicidal thoughts
  • Deprived energy and fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Mental and physical sluggishness
  • Irritability

Bipolar Disorders And Suicide

Past research shows that more people with bipolar disorders are at a higher risk of committing suicide as compared to those suffering from normal depression and the suicides tend to be more toxic. More suicide cases are likely to register from the individuals with a family history of suicide, depressive and mixed episodes, alcohol and drug abuse history, or onset of health complications.

Suicide warnings in Bipolar Disorder individuals

  • Self-harm and frequently talking of death
  • Feeling empty and worthless
  • Hopelessness
  • Getting affairs in order
  • Being reckless as if one has a single death wish

Triggers And Causes Of Bipolar Disorder

Like most of the mental health disorders, bipolar disorders have several triggers and there no single cause that is known to result in the condition. Of course, some cases have shown hereditary causes, though since not all cases that result from an inheritance from close kin them we cannot establish that genetic factor is the single cause.

Imaging studies have shown a difference in the physical appearance of the brain of the individuals with bipolar disorder. Other research studies have linked the bipolar disorder to circadian rhythm disturbances, hormonal imbalances, higher levels of cortisol which is the stress hormone, and anomalous thyroid function.

The external environment that can result in bipolar disorder is known as triggers. However, one can become bipolar even without these factors.

Alcohol and substance abuse- substance abuse does not always result in bipolar disorders. However, abuse of drugs such as cocaine can trigger mania while alcohol abuse can trigger depression.

Irregular sleep patterns and sleep deprivation- skipping sleep or sleeping for fewer hours can trigger mania episodes.

Stress- this is commonly experienced in individuals with genetic susceptibility which affect the mood episodes.

Medication- some medications and especially antidepressants have shown evidence to triggering mania. Other drugs causing mania include and not limited to corticosteroids, appetite suppressants, and thyroid medications. However, your physician should advise you accordingly.

Self-Help For Bipolar Disorder

1. Keep moving. This includes exercise, such as walking, running, dancing, swimming, and other exercises that keep the leg and arms moving. Aerobic exercises have a great benefit to your brain and nervous system.

2. Be educated. The more you know about the bipolar disorder, the more you can support yourself and others.

3. Seek support. Always be quick to seek support form family and friends you trust or a health professional.

4. Avoid highly stressful situations as much as you can.

5. Keep connections with friends and family.

6. Keep in check of your moods for signs swinging out of control

7. Choose more healthy choices such as regular eating and sleeping habits.

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