Bipolar Disorder and Its Characteristics

Table of Contents


Bipolar disorder is an adverse condition that significantly debilitates the patient from maintaining a specific mood for a considerable period of time. Patients with bipolar disorder constantly switch between depression, apathy, and periods of elevated mood for no apparent reason. The condition presents an interesting case for modern psychology as there is still no conclusive evidence that would explain the reasons for its development. Therefore, it is paramount to review what is currently known about the condition.


Bipolar disorder was previously known to the world as maniacal depression. One of the reasons for this is that mania was identified as a distinctive feature of this disease (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). If a mild episode of mania (hypomania) occurs, the patient may feel an obsessive desire to do something and can be rather productive. A person experiencing hypomania demonstrates accelerated speech rates, agitation, less need for sleep. However, this is true only for mild episodes, while more severe cases may produce an impulsive behavior, which is accompanied by poor decision making, and lack of thought put into them. As opposed to hypomania, severe mania decreases the sociability and destructive behavior that often requires hospitalization. It is noteworthy to mention that mild cases of mania rarely transcend into severe ones.

The manic episodes are usually followed by mild or severe depression regardless of the result of the activity. Depression is characterized by a general lack of motivation, hopelessness, sadness, irritability, etc. Depression, if unaddressed, may lead to psychosis. Psychotic people often experience hallucinations and delusions. Such episodes may even lead to suicide, so early identification of the symptoms is advised. Patients with bipolar disorder often exhibit the degradation of cognitive function, lack of concentration, memory impairments, and experience family and/or relationship problems.


The causes of bipolar disorder are yet vague. Currently, scientists identify several fields, in which the causes of the condition might be searched such as genetic, environmental, and neurological. Genetic impairments are believed to be accountable for 60-80 percent of the incidents of bipolar disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The family history of bipolar disorder is the main risk factor for the next generations. Different genes were researched, and many studies identified a variety of those that can be related to the condition. However, multiple testing corrections have revealed that most of them except for tryptophan hydroxylase 1 were proved to have no connection to bipolar disorder. Genetic causes can be hard to establish, as there are a vast variety of genes that are yet to be studied.

Environmental causes may include adverse life events, improper experiences in childhood, destructive relationships. In addition, American Psychiatric Association (2013) states that high-income divorced individuals are at a greater risk of developing bipolar disorder than low-income people that are either married or never married. Stressful events and PTSD could also lead to bipolar disorder. There is also an opinion that the condition may develop due to brain injury or HIV. Amygdala functional issues are believed to be a biomarker that allows identifying people with bipolar disorder (Spielman et al., 2014). The data of the research in that sphere remains inconclusive and requires further studies. All of the causes may interrelate as genetic issues and be paired with environmental issues, which even further increases the chance of developing the disorder.

Management of Bipolar Disorder

There is a variety of treatment options, yet almost all of them are capable of decreasing the destructive effects on the individual and society. As such, psychosocial therapy is recognized as a prominent method of treatment of the bipolar disorder. A trained psychiatrist uses self-reported data from a patient to establish the events that trigger the symptoms and teaches the patient to avoid them. In addition, professional help may include family education to decrease the environmental impact on the development of the symptoms.

Pharmacological treatment is also believed to be effective at reducing the severity of manic or depressive episodes. The most commonly applied evidence-based medication is lithium that is believed to reduce the risk of suicidal attempts and harm to self. Various mood-stabilizing medicines are used to treat acute depression. As such, valproic acid or carbamazepine are advocated for most often. Lithium is, however, generally preferred as a long-term disorder management intervention (Geddes & Miklowitz, 2013). Anti-psychotic pills provide short-term relief for patients that are experiencing maniac episodes. A weaker but, nonetheless, utilized medications include anti-depressants. The isolated use of anti-depressants contributes little to relieve the patient from bipolar disorder symptoms and are generally used in conjunction with mood stabilizers such as the aforementioned lithium. There is also evidence for the effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy for the treatment of acute symptoms of the disorder. Overall, the disorder can be cured within 2 years of active therapy.


Bipolar disorder is an adverse condition that impairs the normal life of a patient and decreases their ability to live in a society without harming others or themselves. The disease is studied thoroughly in many aspects. However, the reasons for its occurrence are yet to be established. The disorder can be effectively managed provided there is qualified specialists and facilities available.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). New York, NY: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Geddes, J.R, & Miklowitz, D.J. (2013). Treatment of bipolar disorder. Lancet, 381(9878), 1672–1682.

Spielman, R., Dumper, K., Jenkins, W., Lacombe, A., Lovett, M., & Perlmutter, M. (2014). Psychology. New York, NY: Openstax

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