Skip to main content

Many illnesses may come to mind when speaking about mental health. One of the most common is depression, which can come in different forms. One form was previously known as manic depression and is now called bipolar disorder. This mental illness causes shifts in a person’s mood, energy, activity levels, and concentration, making daily tasks difficult to complete. There are multiple types of bipolar disorder that all involve changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. Manic episodes (the high), occur when a person is in a period of feeling up, energized, and or highly irritated. A depressive episode (the low) is when a person is in a period of feeling down, sad, or hopeless. 

One vs Two

The first type of bipolar disorder is Bipolar I Disorder, which is defined by manic episodes lasting for at least seven days most of the day or manic episodes so severe the person will need medical care. Usually, depressive episodes occur and last at least two weeks. These episodes can come with mixed features where a person experiences both manic and depressive symptoms. Bipolar II Disorder is a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, where the manic episodes are less severe than Bipolar I. Finally, Cyclothymic Disorder features recurring hypomanic and depressive symptoms that are not intense enough or do not last long enough to qualify as hypomanic or depressive episodes. 


Typically, individuals get diagnosed during late adolescence or early adulthood, although symptoms can sometimes appear in children. Symptoms can include unusually intense emotions and changes in sleep patterns and activity levels. Everyone goes through mood changes; however, the episode duration and severity may vary. Symptoms of manic episodes include feeling high, joyful, or highly irritated.  The individual might not be able to do many things at once without getting fatigued. A person experiencing a manic episode may have racing thoughts and a decreased need for sleep. On the other end, a person experiencing a depressive episode will feel very sad, slowed down, restless, and unable to do even simple things. A depressive episode can cause a person to have trouble concentrating, making decisions, and have a lack of interest in activities they typically enjoy.

The Odds

Many factors can contribute to a person’s chance of having bipolar disorder. As this is still being studied, doctors rely on symptoms and history to diagnose a person rather than brain imagining. Some research also suggests specific genes are more likely to cause bipolar disorder. Having a parent or sibling with the illness can increase the chances of a person having it. No one gene causes the disease, but rather, many genes are involved. This is also being studied to help researchers develop new treatments. 


The past few years have shown more research and information regarding bipolar disorder. Approximately 5.7 million adult Americans (2.6% of the adult population) are impacted by bipolar disorder each year. This is a mental illness that is still being researched, and advancements are being made to help find the best treatment solutions possible. Showing support and caring for someone fighting this illness is essential and shows them that they are not alone in this fight. Understanding the illness may help provide more support to a loved one in the future.