Bipolar Disorder: What is it?


Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness: What is Bipolar Disorder?

Over 2.6% of Americans (5.6 million adults) have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although such a large population has bipolar disorder, there is still confusion about what this disease actually is.

Generally, bipolar disorder (or manic depression) is when a person experiences extreme highs and lows in their emotional being. The emotional highs are called mania or hypomania and can make a person extremely energized sometimes staying awake for days at a time.  Individuals can also be prone to risky behavior such as promiscuity, wild spending sprees and dangers activities. The emotional lows are a state of depression which includes feelings of devastation, little to no interest in normal activities and exhaustion, sometimes sleeping for days at a time. These changes in mood can be as frequent as daily or as infrequent as a few times a year. These episodes can be triggered by outside influences, but often occur with little to no warning.  With proper education, we can spot and support those individuals with this disease.


Bipolar I disorder is classified as one or more manic episodes followed by an extreme depression. Each of these shifts is usually accompanied by impairment in everyday life, hospitalization and/or psychosis.

Bipolar II disorder is one or more episodes of depression lasting two weeks or longer and one hypomanic episode lasting a minimum of four consecutive days.

Bipolar behaviors


Mania, a stage of heightened mood:

  • Euphoria
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Poor judgment
  • Rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Agitation or irritation
  • Increased physical activity
  • Risky behavior
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Anxiety

Hypomania, mood changes, happy or sad, elevated past normal levels (for more than four consecutive days):

  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Talkativeness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased activities
  • Participation in risky behavior

Depression, a state of melancholy:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Thoughts or actions of self-harm
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep issues
  • A lowered or increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • Inability to focus
  • Irritability
  • Chronic pain without a known cause

Dystonic Mania, is a combination of depression and mania:

  • A combination of the previously listed Signs and Symptoms simultaneously


Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

Bipolar Disorder is a rollercoaster that bounces between the different levels of mania and depression.

  • Anxiety
  • Manic or Hypomanic Episodes
  • Depression or Melancholy
  • Rapid cycling of highs and lows
  • Psychosis
  • Catatonia
  • Irritability
  • Rapid Speech
  • Trouble Focusing
  • Substance Abuse
  • Erratic Behavior
  • Sleep Issues, Fatigue, Inability to Sleep

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness but is MANAGEABLE with the proper treatment and support.

People with bipolar disorder that are not properly diagnosed and treated may participate in acts of self-harm, but are very unlikely to be aggressive. In periods of dystonia, however, people are more likely to be aggressive and violent towards others. The most important thing to remember is that this aggression can be changed with early diagnosis and proper treatment.

Bipolar Disorder is Manageable

If you feel like these signs and symptoms apply to you or a family member, please see a mental health professional.

Please share this information with the world and help STOP the stigma of mental illness through education!  Stay tuned every Wednesday for more educational pieces about mental health.

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* If you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, please dial 911 immediately.


Bipolar Disorder Symptoms – Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved from

What Is Dysphoric Mania?  Bipolar Disorder Centers. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Comments 10

    1. Post

      No, I don’t as of yet but this is going to be a series of posts, and I think that this is a great and informative post idea. I will absolutely write one! Thank you for your support! xo, Andrea

  1. Abigail

    While I’ve never dealt with bipolar disorder I have suffered from severe anxiety and depression. The peaks always hit after my children are born. My triggers are big changes or unknowns. Thanks for writing this. I appreciate these articles because it make me feel less alone.

    1. Post

      Thank you for sharing! That’s a great point and observation that the peaks hit after big changes. The more we understand ourselves emotionally, the better we can help ourselves and help others be there for us as well. Thanks again! xo, Andrea

  2. Tracy

    Bipolar has destroyed me and my family. They treat me like I’m some sort of cancer and everything that goes wrong is always my faught because I’am the one with the disease.

    1. Post

      I am so sorry to hear that! It is such a horrible disease and I couldn’t imagine going through it without a single person to stand by me. Have you been able to talk to anyone? A therapist or hotline? Please feel free to email me( for support of to help you find resources near you. You are in my heart! xo, Andrea

    1. Post

      It really does affect the entire family and the way they continue to raise their children. Thank you, Charlotte!

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