Bipolar disorder is a complex disorder that affects more than 4 percent of Americans during their lifetime. It’s often thought of as quick mood swings, but it can be much more than that. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme moods that shift from depression to mania and back to normal for certain amounts of time.

In some cases, you can go through all of these phases in a single day, but sometimes manic or depressive episodes can last for weeks or months. In fact, to be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, depressive and manic episodes need to last a certain amount of time, and quick mood swings within a few hours might not qualify.

Bipolar disorder is complex in the same way that many mental health issues are. It can be difficult to diagnose since it shares similarities with other issues like major depression. It’s also difficult to pinpoint where the disorder comes from, even in an individual person. Like most mental health problems, it’s most likely caused by various factors and triggers.

Still, learning more about your disorder and addressing it with the help of professionals is important. Treatment may help you avoid some of the most serious consequences of the disorder like long-term health problems, social isolation, or financial instability. Learn more about bipolar disorder and what causes it.

How Bipolar Disorder Works

Bipolar disorder is separated into two subcategories, including bipolar I and bipolar II. Bipolar I involves at least one manic episode that lasts at least a week. Bipolar II involves depressive episodes with no manic episodes. It also involves less severe hypomanic episodes, which are marked by a period of abnormally high, irritable, or euphoric mood with increased energy levels that last for at least four days.

Manic episodes in bipolar 1 disorder can come with extremely high and euphoric moods where you feel overly self-confident, elated, energized, and excited. It can also cause psychosis in the form of delusional thinking, especially delusions of grandeur. You may think you are the only one who can thwart an unseen enemy, or you may think you have a perfect business idea that causes you to empty your bank account. Manic episodes can take a toll on your relationships and finances, but they can also impact your health and well-being. Insomnia can lead to health problems when it lasts for too long. Plus, severe manic episodes can require hospitalization if a person becomes a danger to themselves or others.

Where Bipolar Disorder Comes From

Mental health disorders like bipolar disorder are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and developmental factors. Biological differences in the brain can be seen in people with the disorder. Research suggests that damage to brain cells in the hippocampus might contribute to the development of a mood disorder.

Genetics play a significant role in your susceptibility to developing bipolar disorder. Researchers are looking for ways to identify the genes that are affected so that they can predict the disorder. If you are predisposed to bipolar disorder, environmental and developmental problems may trigger it, including extreme stress, abuse, loss of a loved one, substance abuse, and physical illness or injuries.

Risk Factors

  • A first-degree relative with bipolar disorder. If your parents, children, or siblings have the disorder, it may mean you have a genetic predisposition to develop it. Genetic factors significantly increase your risk.
  • Periods of high stress. Difficult periods in your life, like losing a loved one, a challenging job, or financial instability, can trigger bipolar disorder.
  • Substance use issues. Substance abuse is linked to a higher risk of mental health problems. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that substance use disorders occur with co-occurring mental health issues like bipolar disorders with a high prevalence.

Can You Prevent Bipolar Disorder?

Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent bipolar disorder. Because its cause is difficult to pin down, it’s hard to identify preventative steps to take. However, it may be helpful to follow general mental health practices that can be good for you.

Getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining healthy relationships can help you improve your overall mental health, which may stave off certain disorders. It may also help you recognize when there’s a problem. Early detection of bipolar disorder can help you get the help you need and avoid some of the most severe consequences.

Why Seek Treatment?

Bipolar disorder is a serious health issue that can cause severe consequences if it’s left unchecked. Manic episodes may seem pleasant at first, but they can lead to financial issues, problems related to insomnia, and psychotic thinking.

In some cases, severe manic episodes require hospitalization when a person poses a threat to themselves or other people. Depression can also lead to serious complications. It can cause thoughts of suicide or suicidal actions. It can cause fluctuations in weight and unhealthy sleep schedules. Untreated depression can also lead to problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Though bipolar disorder is complicated and difficult to get over on your own, it is treatable with the right help. Take your first steps toward better mental health by learning more about bipolar disorder and how it can be treated today.

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