Bipolar Disorder

Updated: July 23, 2022

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterised by extreme mood swings that oscillate between mania and deep depression which is why it was once known as manic depression. The word ‘mania’ comes from Greek and means ‘madness’.  To people who witness it, bipolar looks like extreme highs and lows.

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What Is Bipolar Disorder?

The term bi-polar describes two-divisive poles, or two polarised and extreme moods.  These are depression (feeling very low and lethargic), and mania (feeling energised, high, and excited).  Bipolar is not a simple issue of mood swings, each episode can last for weeks, months, and in some cases, even years, with each mood having a separate set of symptoms.


Because each state can last a while, some people might be diagnosed with clinical depression rather than bipolar because they have not yet experienced a manic episode.  It can be challenging for those who experience bipolar to maintain relationships or employment and the risk of suicide is increased.


Today, there are thought to be 4 types of bipolar:


Bipolar I: When individuals have one or more manic episodes that last at least a week.  They may or may not experience a depressive episode.


Bipolar II: When individuals experience depressive episodes which oscillate with mania but they do not experience full manic episodes.


Cyclothymic disorder: This is a mild form of bipolar in which depressive and manic states last at least 2 years at a time, with individuals alternating between them, and with periods of normal mood that last no more than 8 weeks.


Unspecified bipolar disorder: When individuals experience significant mood elevation but do not ‘fit’ any of the other types of bipolar.

What Are The Symptoms?

Extreme Highs (Mania)

This mood can last for weeks or months (and possibly years) and can include:


  • Feeling extremely happy, overjoyed, or elated
  • Talking very fast
  • Feeling a sense of self-importance
  • Experiencing lots of great ideas and important plans
  • Having lots of energy
  • Being easily distracted
  • Getting easily agitated or irritated
  • Delusion, hallucinations (psychosis or a psychotic episode)
  • Irrational, illogical, or disturbed thoughts
  • Not wanting to sleep
  • Not wanting to eat
  • Doing reckless and disastrous things like going on shopping sprees and spending large (and sometimes unaffordable) amounts of money
  • Saying or doing things that they normally wouldn’t, and that others see as harmful or risky
  • Being unaware that they are in the ‘manic phase’ and being shocked at their behaviour afterwards

Extreme Lows (Depression)

This mood can last for weeks or months (and possibly years) and is characterised by:


  • Low energy levels
  • Feelings of sadness, despair, hopelessness, pessimism, emptiness, and suicidal ideation
  • Feeling irritable
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt
  • Self-doubt and worthlessness
  • Problems with concentration
  • Memory issues (forgetfulness)
  • Delusion, hallucinations (psychosis or a psychotic episode)
  • Irrational, illogical, or disturbed thoughts
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • No appetite
  • Trouble sleeping and waking early

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

There is no known cause for bipolar, however there are certain factors that might make someone more susceptible to developing it, especially when individuals experience multiple risk factors, which include:

A chemical imbalance in the brain: Our brains produce neurotransmitters (some of which also act as hormones) that are responsible for regulating mood, these include noradrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin.  The research suggests that an imbalance in one or more of these ‘feel good hormones’ is linked to bipolar disorder.

Genetic inheritance: Although no single gene is responsible for bipolar, it tends to run in families, indicating a genetic component which may be increased when environmental factors are also at work.

Environmental factors: These include stressful life events such as any kind of abuse, the breakdown of a relationship, suffering a bereavement, a physical illness, or sleep problems.  Day to day difficulties that become overwhelmingly stressful can also act as a trigger, for example, financial, work, or relationship issues.

How Phinity Therapy Can Help

Normally an individual with bipolar will need to see a GP and be referred to a psychiatrist for a diagnosis, or to rule it out.  The psychiatrist may prescribe mood stabilisers, antidepressants, and/or antipsychotic medication.  They may also recommend psychotherapy, all with the aim of reducing the frequency and severity of depressive and manic episodes, and to promote the ability to live as normally as possible.

At Phinity we will conduct our own thorough psychological assessment to see how we might best support you to live well.  This might include helping you to recognise and understand the signs and triggers of a depressive or manic episode.

Psychotherapy can also help you to deal with your depression and help you to improve relationships.  Some therapies that might be helpful include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), or couple or family therapy.

In addition, based on your assessment with us, and the goals established, we can offer guidance about how you might experience a more optimised lifestyle, such that you experience enjoyment, feel accomplished, and do the kinds of activities that offer opportunities to boost production of ‘feel good hormones‘, and therefore overall wellbeing.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?How Phinity Therapy Can Help


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