Bipolar disorder can also be referred to as manic depression. This condition is a mood disorder and is characterised by experiencing mood swings from mania to depression.

Definition of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder or manic depression is a mood disorder which is characterised by mood swings from mania to depression. The ‘high’ phase of the condition is known as mania. This is a phase where the person is excessively energetic and cannot properly sleep. The person tends to think and speak faster than his normal pace and their thoughts seem to jump from one idea to the next. They make conversations difficult and they have grandiose ideas of themselves, have high self-esteem, pompous, and they are somewhat delusional. They also tend to be very impulsive and this results to a lot of problems in their work and their relationships.

During episodes of depression, the person will feel worthlessness, hopelessness, despair, negativity, being lethargic, and they will have difficulty going about their everyday routines. They are also prone to become anti-social or they withdraw from society and often think about committing suicide.

One in every one hundred patients has bipolar disorder. The depressive stage comes first and about 10% of those who believe they only have depression will have manic episodes some six to ten years later. About fifteen percent of those patients will only have one manic episode in their lives.

There are many mood variations when a patient has bipolar disorder. The duration of an episode attack can last for days or it can become a repetitive cycle for some. Others will not have an episode attack for so long. These are the bipolar that can hold a stable job for a long period of time. But some patients are not so lucky because they cannot lead normal lives due to the disorder. Patients with bipolar disorder can also be diagnosed with severe schizophrenia.

Cyclothymia or cyclothymic disorder is a milder version of bipolar disorder. The manic and depressive episodes are not as extreme when compared to the attacks of patients with bipolar disorder. Though less extreme, their bouts of mood swings are still troublesome for some of the patients.

It is not known how or what causes the onset of bipolar disorder but there are factors which could explain why this happens:

  • 10 to 15 % of patients with bipolar disorder have a family history of the disorder or other mental health related disorders for that matter.
  • Being deprived of maternal love and affection during childhood which influences the patient’s adult life
  • Biochemical factors like neurotransmitters and hormones and neurotransmitters which affect the manic and depressive states of the disorder.


The following are symptoms for the depressive phase:

  • Physical and mental incapacity
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Lethargic and loss of energy
  • sadness and worthlessness
  • self-doubt
  • pessimism and negativity
  • self-blame
  • suicidal thoughts
  • wakes up early in the morning

The following are symptoms for the manic phase which comes after two or more depressive episodes:

  • fast thoughts and speech
  • have dozens of ideas all at the same time
  • poor judgment
  • euphoric
  • grandiose ideas about himself
  • too optimistic
  • high self-esteem or being pompous

Being in a manic state makes the patient have problems in his sleep, make unrealistic plans and have boisterous attitude which can be very humiliating. The person will also have increased sexual activity.

Both episodes have psychotic symptoms like seeing or hearing imaginary voices, having hallucinations and delusions. Recovery from bipolar disorder is about 90% but relapse into the disorder is also very high.


The following can be done to prevent the patient from becoming sad or too depressed:

  • Having self-control over your life can be helpful when the person often feels hopeless in their plight. Hopelessness is related to depression.
  • Keeping in touch with friends and family to keep being sad or depressed. It may be hard to socialize for those with this disorder but it can help a lot to prevent episode attacks.
  • Learning new things can help in recovering from long-term depression. Set achievable goals or short-term goals to give you a sense of triumph. This will make the patient feel better about himself.
  • Being active, doing regular exercise and having outdoor activities are very important, especially in older men, to keep depression at bay.
  • Learning self-help techniques like meditation and listening to music can do wonders for the recovering patient.
  • Eating a proper diet can also help stave depression away. People who have depression were found to have low amounts of fatty acids in their bodies which can be found in fish oils.

The following can be done to prevent the patient from becoming too euphoric or manic:

  • Taking control of how you feel and behave will help you reduce your chances to becoming manic.
  • Get enough sleep and rest
  • Tranquilisers and sleeping tablets can help if they are taken early on but do not overdo the medication
  • Avoid alcohol, recreational drugs or coffee. These are stimulants and it can get you manic.
  • Doing fewer things will have you more focused and have less to think about.


Depressive episodes can last for 6 months to a year if the patient is not treated. Studies have shown that an average person may suffer about five to six episodes in a 20-year period. The episodes will clear in three months but relapse can occur if the patient stops treatment before recovering fully in about six months. They may also take anti-depressants and go into talk therapies such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. Others have turned to acupuncture for alternative treatments.

Lithium carbonate is used to treat manic episodes. This is a mood stabilizer and is often prescribed to people with depression too. People who take in lithium carbonate should take regular blood check-ups because an elevated amount of lithium in the bloodstream is lethal.

Being able to manage and recognize the factors that might trigger mood swings can be helpful in stabilizing the patient’s condition.