Everything You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

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What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms can include an extremely elevated mood called mania. They can also include episodes of depression. Bipolar disorder is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression.

People with bipolar disorder may have trouble managing everyday life tasks at school or work, or maintaining relationships. There’s no cure, but there are many treatment options available that can help to manage the symptoms. Learn the signs of bipolar disorder to watch for.

Bipolar disorder facts

Bipolar disorder isn’t a rare brain disorder. In fact, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults — or about 5 million people — have been diagnosed with it. The average age when people with bipolar disorder begin to show symptoms is 25 years old.

Depression caused by bipolar disorder lasts at least two weeks. A high (manic) episode can last for several days or weeks. Some people will experience episodes of changes in mood several times a year, while others may experience them only rarely. Here’s what having bipolar disorder feels like for some people.

Bipolar disorder symptoms

There are three main symptoms that can occur with bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, and depression.

While experiencing mania, a person with bipolar disorder may feel an emotional high. They can feel excited, impulsive, euphoric, and full of energy. During manic episodes, they may also engage in behavior such as:

Hypomania is generally associated with bipolar II disorder. It’s similar to mania, but it’s not as severe. Unlike mania, hypomania may not result in any trouble at work, school, or in social relationships. However, people with hypomania still notice changes in their mood.

During an episode of depression you may experience:

Although it’s not a rare condition, bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose because of its varied symptoms. Find out about the symptoms that often occur during high and low periods.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in women

Men and women are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in equal numbers. However, the main symptoms of the disorder may be different between the two genders. In many cases, a woman with bipolar disorder may:

  • be diagnosed later in life, in her 20s or 30s
  • have milder episodes of mania
  • experience more depressive episodes than manic episodes
  • have four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year, which is called rapid cycling
  • experience other conditions at the same time, including thyroid diseaseobesityanxiety disorders, and migraines
  • have a higher lifetime risk of alcohol use disorder

Women with bipolar disorder may also relapse more often. This is believed to be caused by hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. If you’re a woman and think you may have bipolar disorder, it’s important for you to get the facts. Here’s what you need to know about bipolar disorder in women.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in men

Men and women both experience common symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, men may experience symptoms differently than women. Men with bipolar disorder may:

  • be diagnosed earlier in life
  • experience more severe episodes, especially manic episodes
  • have substance abuse issues
  • act out during manic episodes

Men with bipolar disorder are less likely than women to seek medical care on their own. They’re also more likely to die by suicide.

Types of bipolar disorder

There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is defined by the appearance of at least one manic episode. You may experience hypomanic or major depressive episodes before and after the manic episode. This type of bipolar disorder affects men and women equally.

Bipolar II

People with this type of bipolar disorder experience one major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks. They also have at least one hypomanic episode that lasts about four days. This type of bipolar disorder is thought to be more common in women.

Cyclothymia

People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania and depression. These symptoms are shorter and less severe than the mania and depression caused by bipolar I or bipolar II disorder. Most people with this condition only experience a month or two at a time where their moods are stable.

When discussing your diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell you what kind of bipolar disorder you have. In the meantime, learn more about the types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder in children

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children is controversial. This is largely because children don’t always display the same bipolar disorder symptoms as adults. Their moods and behaviors may also not follow the standards doctors use to diagnose the disorder in adults.

Many bipolar disorder symptoms that occur in children also overlap with symptoms from a range of other disorders that can occur in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

However, in the last few decades, doctors and mental health professionals have come to recognize the condition in children. A diagnosis can help children get treatment, but reaching a diagnosis may take many weeks or months. Your child may need to seek special care from a professional trained to treat children with mental health issues.

Like adults, children with bipolar disorder experience episodes of elevated mood. They can appear very happy and show signs of excitable behavior. These periods are then followed by depression. While all children experience mood changes, changes caused by bipolar disorder are very pronounced. They’re also usually more extreme than a child’s typical change in mood.

Manic symptoms in children

Symptoms of a child’s manic episode caused by bipolar disorder can include:

  • acting very silly and feeling overly happy
  • talking fast and rapidly changing subjects
  • having trouble focusing or concentrating
  • doing risky things or experimenting with risky behaviors
  • having a very short temper that leads quickly to outbursts of anger
  • having trouble sleeping and not feeling tired after sleep loss

Depressive symptoms in children

Symptoms of a child’s depressive episode caused by bipolar disorder can include:

  • moping around or acting very sad
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • having little energy for normal activities or showing no signs of interest in anything
  • complaining about not feeling well, including having frequent headaches or stomachaches
  • experiencing feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • eating too little or too much
  • thinking about death and possibly suicide

Other possible diagnoses

Some of the behavior issues you may witness in your child could be the result of another condition. ADHD and other behavior disorders can occur in children with bipolar disorder. Work with your child’s doctor to document your child’s unusual behaviors, which will help lead to a diagnosis.

Finding the correct diagnosis can help your child’s doctor determine treatments that can help your child live a healthy life. Read more about bipolar disorder in children.

Bipolar disorder in teens

Angst-filled behavior is nothing new to the average parent of a teenager. The shifts in hormones, plus the life changes that come with puberty, can make even the most well-behaved teen seem a little upset or overly emotional from time to time. However, some teenage changes in mood may be the result of a more serious condition, such as bipolar disorder.

A bipolar disorder diagnosis is most common during the late teens and early adult years. For teenagers, the more common symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • being very happy
  • “acting out” or misbehaving
  • taking part in risky behaviors
  • abusing substances
  • thinking about sex more than usual
  • becoming overly sexual or sexually active
  • having trouble sleeping but not showing signs of fatigue or being tired
  • having a very short temper
  • having trouble staying focused, or being easily distracted

For teenagers, the more common symptoms of a depressive episode include:

  • sleeping a lot or too little
  • eating too much or too little
  • feeling very sad and showing little excitability
  • withdrawing from activities and friends
  • thinking about death and suicide

Diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder can help teens live a healthy life. Learn more about bipolar disorder in teenagers and how to treat it.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

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Bipolar disorder and depression

Bipolar disorder can have two extremes: up and down. To be diagnosed with bipolar, you must experience a period of mania or hypomania. People generally feel “up” in this phase of the disorder. When you’re experiencing an “up” change in mood, you may feel highly energized and be easily excitable.

Some people with bipolar disorder will also experience a major depressive episode, or a “down” mood. When you’re experiencing a “down” change in mood, you may feel lethargic, unmotivated, and sad. However, not all people with bipolar disorder who have this symptom feel “down” enough to be labeled depressed. For instance, for some people, once their mania is treated, a normal mood may feel like depression because they enjoyed the “high” caused by the manic episode.

While bipolar disorder can cause you to feel depressed, it’s not the same as the condition called depression. Bipolar disorder can cause highs and lows, but depression causes moods and emotions that are always “down.” Discover the differences between bipolar disorder and depression.

Causes of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a common mental health disorder, but it’s a bit of a mystery to doctors and researchers. It’s not yet clear what causes some people to develop the condition and not others.

Possible causes of bipolar disorder include:

Genetics

If your parent or sibling has bipolar disorder, you’re more likely than other people to develop the condition (see below). However, it’s important to keep in mind that most people who have bipolar disorder in their family history don’t develop it.

Your brain

Your brain structure may impact your risk for the disease. Abnormalities in the structure or functions of your brain may increase your risk.

Environmental factors

It’s not just what’s in your body that can make you more likely to develop bipolar disorder. Outside factors may contribute, too. These factors can include:

  • extreme stress
  • traumatic experiences
  • physical illness

Each of these factors may influence who develops bipolar disorder. What’s more likely, however, is that a combination of factors contributes to the development of the disease. Here’s what you need to know about the potential causes of bipolar disorder.

Is bipolar disorder hereditary?

Bipolar disorder can be passed from parent to child. Research has identified a strong genetic link in people with the disorder. If you have a relative with the disorder, your chances of also developing it are four to six times higher than people without a family history of the condition.

However, this doesn’t mean that everyone with relatives who have the disorder will develop it. In addition, not everyone with bipolar disorder has a family history of the disease.

Still, genetics seem to play a considerable role in the incidence of bipolar disorder. If you have a family member with bipolar disorder, find out whether screening might be a good idea for you.

Bipolar disorder diagnosis

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder (i) involves either one or more manic episodes, or mixed (manic and depressive) episodes. It may also include a major depressive episode, but it may not. A diagnosis of bipolar (ii) involves one or more major depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania.

To be diagnosed with a manic episode, you must experience symptoms that last for at least one week or that cause you to be hospitalized. You must experience symptoms almost all day every day during this time. Major depressive episodes, on the other hand, must last for at least two weeks.

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose because mood swings can vary. It’s even harder to diagnose in children and adolescents. This age group often has greater changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels.

Bipolar disorder often gets worse if it’s left untreated. Episodes may happen more often or become more extreme. But if you receive treatment for your bipolar disorder, it’s possible for you to lead a healthy and productive life. Therefore, diagnosis is very important. See how bipolar disorder is diagnosed.

Bipolar disorder symptoms test

One test result doesn’t make a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Instead, your doctor will use several tests and exams. These may include:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will do a full physical exam. They may also order blood or urine tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
  • Mental health evaluation. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. These doctors diagnose and treat mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder. During the visit, they will evaluate your mental health and look for signs of bipolar disorder.
  • Mood journal. If your doctor suspects your behavior changes are the result of a mood disorder like bipolar, they may ask you to chart your moods. The easiest way to do this is to keep a journal of how you’re feeling and how long these feelings last. Your doctor may also suggest that you record your sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Diagnostic criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is an outline of symptoms for various mental health disorders. Doctors can follow this list to confirm a bipolar diagnosis.

Your doctor may use other tools and tests to diagnose bipolar disorder in addition to these. Read about other tests that can help confirm a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder treatment

Several treatments are available that can help you manage your bipolar disorder. These include medications, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Some natural remedies may also be helpful.

Medications

Recommended medications may include:

  • mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Lithobid)
  • antipsychotics, such as olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • antidepressant-antipsychotics, such as fluoxetine-olanzapine (Symbyax)
  • benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety medication such as alprazolam (Xanax) that may be used for short-term treatment

Psychotherapy

Recommended psychotherapy treatments may include:

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy. You and a therapist talk about ways to manage your bipolar disorder. They will help you understand your thinking patterns. They can also help you come up with positive coping strategies. You can connect to a mental health care professional in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is a kind of counseling that helps you and your loved ones understand the disorder. Knowing more about bipolar disorder will help you and others in your life manage it.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) focuses on regulating daily habits, such as sleeping, eating, and exercising. Balancing these everyday basics can help you manage your disorder.

Other treatment options

Other treatment options may include:

Lifestyle changes

There are also some simple steps you can take right now to help manage your bipolar disorder:

  • keep a routine for eating and sleeping
  • learn to recognize mood swings
  • ask a friend or relative to support your treatment plans
  • talk to a doctor or licensed healthcare provider

Other lifestyle changes can also help relieve depressive symptoms caused by bipolar disorder. Check out these seven ways to help manage a depressive episode.

Natural remedies for bipolar disorder

Some natural remedies may be helpful for bipolar disorder. However, it’s important not to use these remedies without first talking with your doctor. These treatments could interfere with medications you’re taking.

The following herbs and supplements may help stabilize your mood and relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Several other minerals and vitamins may also reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. Here’s 10 alternative treatments for bipolar disorder.

Tips for coping and support

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Bipolar disorder affects about 60 million peopleTrusted Source around the world.

One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself and those around you. There are many resources available. For instance, SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator provides treatment information by ZIP code. You can also find additional resources at the site for the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, make an appointment with your doctor. If you think a friend, relative, or loved one may have bipolar disorder, your support and understanding is crucial. Encourage them to see a doctor about any symptoms they’re having. And read how to help someone living with bipolar disorder.

People who are experiencing a depressive episode may have suicidal thoughts. You should always take any talk of suicide seriously.

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Bipolar disorder and relationships

When it comes to managing a relationship while you live with bipolar disorder, honesty is the best policy. Bipolar disorder can have an impact on any relationship in your life, perhaps especially on a romantic relationship. So, it’s important to be open about your condition.

There’s no right or wrong time to tell someone you have bipolar disorder. Be open and honest as soon as you’re ready. Consider sharing these facts to help your partner better understand the condition:

  • when you were diagnosed
  • what to expect during your depressive phases
  • what to expect during your manic phases
  • how you typically treat your moods
  • how they can be helpful to you

One of the best ways to support and make a relationship successful is to stick with your treatment. Treatment helps you reduce symptoms and scale back the severity of your changes in mood. With these aspects of the disorder under control, you can focus more on your relationship.

Your partner can also learn ways to promote a healthy relationship. Check out this guide to maintaining healthy relationships while coping with bipolar disorder, which has tips for both you and your partner.

Living with bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness. That means you’ll live and cope with it for the rest of your life. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy, healthy life.

Treatment can help you manage your changes in mood and cope with your symptoms. To get the most out of treatment, you may want to create a care team to help you. In addition to your primary doctor, you may want to find a psychiatrist and psychologist. Through talk therapy, these doctors can help you cope with symptoms of bipolar disorder that medication can’t help.

You may also want to seek out a supportive community. Finding other people who’re also living with this disorder can give you a group of people you can rely on and turn to for help.

Finding treatments that work for you requires perseverance. Likewise, you need to have patience with yourself as you learn to manage bipolar disorder and anticipate your changes in mood. Together with your care team, you’ll find ways to maintain a normal, happy, healthy life.

While living with bipolar disorder can be a real challenge, it can help to maintain a sense of humor about life. For a chuckle, check out this list of 25 things only someone with bipolar disorder would understand.

Last medically reviewed on January 18, 2018

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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Kimberly Holland and Emma Nicholls and the Healthline Editorial Team on January 18, 2018

Bipolar disorder symptoms test

One test result doesn’t make a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Instead, your doctor will use several tests and exams. These may include:

  • Physical exam. Your doctor will do a full physical exam. They may also order blood or urine tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
  • Mental health evaluation. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. These doctors diagnose and treat mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder. During the visit, they will evaluate your mental health and look for signs of bipolar disorder.
  • Mood journal. If your doctor suspects your behavior changes are the result of a mood disorder like bipolar, they may ask you to chart your moods. The easiest way to do this is to keep a journal of how you’re feeling and how long these feelings last. Your doctor may also suggest that you record your sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Diagnostic criteria. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is an outline of symptoms for various mental health disorders. Doctors can follow this list to confirm a bipolar diagnosis.

Your doctor may use other tools and tests to diagnose bipolar disorder in addition to these. Read about other tests that can help confirm a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder treatment

Several treatments are available that can help you manage your bipolar disorder. These include medications, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Some natural remedies may also be helpful.

Medications

Recommended medications may include:

  • mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Lithobid)
  • antipsychotics, such as olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • antidepressant-antipsychotics, such as fluoxetine-olanzapine (Symbyax)
  • benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety medication such as alprazolam (Xanax) that may be used for short-term treatment

Psychotherapy

Recommended psychotherapy treatments may include:

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy. You and a therapist talk about ways to manage your bipolar disorder. They will help you understand your thinking patterns. They can also help you come up with positive coping strategies. You can connect to a mental health care professional in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is a kind of counseling that helps you and your loved ones understand the disorder. Knowing more about bipolar disorder will help you and others in your life manage it.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) focuses on regulating daily habits, such as sleeping, eating, and exercising. Balancing these everyday basics can help you manage your disorder.

Other treatment options

Other treatment options may include:

Lifestyle changes

There are also some simple steps you can take right now to help manage your bipolar disorder:

  • keep a routine for eating and sleeping
  • learn to recognize mood swings
  • ask a friend or relative to support your treatment plans
  • talk to a doctor or licensed healthcare provider

Other lifestyle changes can also help relieve depressive symptoms caused by bipolar disorder. Check out these seven ways to help manage a depressive episode.

Natural remedies for bipolar disorder

Some natural remedies may be helpful for bipolar disorder. However, it’s important not to use these remedies without first talking with your doctor. These treatments could interfere with medications you’re taking.

The following herbs and supplements may help stabilize your mood and relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Several other minerals and vitamins may also reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. Here’s 10 alternative treatments for bipolar disorder.

Tips for coping and support

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Bipolar disorder affects about 60 million peopleTrusted Source around the world.

One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself and those around you. There are many resources available. For instance, SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator provides treatment information by ZIP code. You can also find additional resources at the site for the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, make an appointment with your doctor. If you think a friend, relative, or loved one may have bipolar disorder, your support and understanding is crucial. Encourage them to see a doctor about any symptoms they’re having. And read how to help someone living with bipolar disorder.

People who are experiencing a depressive episode may have suicidal thoughts. You should always take any talk of suicide seriously.

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Bipolar disorder and relationships

When it comes to managing a relationship while you live with bipolar disorder, honesty is the best policy. Bipolar disorder can have an impact on any relationship in your life, perhaps especially on a romantic relationship. So, it’s important to be open about your condition.

There’s no right or wrong time to tell someone you have bipolar disorder. Be open and honest as soon as you’re ready. Consider sharing these facts to help your partner better understand the condition:

  • when you were diagnosed
  • what to expect during your depressive phases
  • what to expect during your manic phases
  • how you typically treat your moods
  • how they can be helpful to you

One of the best ways to support and make a relationship successful is to stick with your treatment. Treatment helps you reduce symptoms and scale back the severity of your changes in mood. With these aspects of the disorder under control, you can focus more on your relationship.

Your partner can also learn ways to promote a healthy relationship. Check out this guide to maintaining healthy relationships while coping with bipolar disorder, which has tips for both you and your partner.

Bipolar 1 Disorder and Bipolar 2 Disorder: What Are the Differences?

Understanding bipolar disorder

Most people have emotional ups and downs from time to time. But if you have a brain condition called bipolar disorder, your feelings can reach abnormally high or low levels.

Sometimes you may feel immensely excited or energetic. Other times, you may find yourself sinking into a deep depression. Some of these emotional peaks and valleys can last for weeks or months.

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar 1 and 2 disorders are more common than the other types of bipolar disorder. Read on to learn how these two types are alike and different.

Bipolar 1 vs. bipolar 2

All types of bipolar disorder are characterized by episodes of extreme mood. The highs are known as manic episodes. The lows are known as depressive episodes.

The main difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders lies in the severity of the manic episodes caused by each type.

A person with bipolar 1 will experience a full manic episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience only a hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full manic episode).

A person with bipolar 1 may or may not experience a major depressive episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience a major depressive episode.

What is bipolar 1 disorder?

You must have had at least one manic episode to be diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. A person with bipolar 1 disorder may or may not have a major depressive episode. The symptoms of a manic episode may be so severe that you require hospital care.

Manic episodes are usually characterized by the following:

The symptoms of a manic episode tend to be so obvious and intrusive that there’s little doubt that something is wrong.

What is bipolar 2 disorder?

Bipolar 2 disorder involves a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full-blown manic episode). People with bipolar 2 typically don’t experience manic episodes intense enough to require hospitalization.

Bipolar 2 is sometimes misdiagnosed as depression, as depressive symptoms may be the major symptom at the time the person seeks medical attention. When there are no manic episodes to suggest bipolar disorder, the depressive symptoms become the focus.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

As mentioned above, bipolar 1 disorder causes mania and may cause depression, while bipolar 2 disorder causes hypomania and depression. Let’s learn more about what these symptoms mean.

Mania

manic episode is more than just a feeling of elation, high energy, or being distracted. During a manic episode, the mania is so intense that it can interfere with your daily activities. It’s difficult to redirect someone in a manic episode toward a calmer, more reasonable state.

People who are in the manic phase of bipolar disorder can make some very irrational decisions, such as spending large amounts of money that they can’t afford to spend. They may also engage in high-risk behaviors, such as sexual indiscretions despite being in a committed relationship.

An episode can’t be officially deemed manic if it’s caused by outside influences such as alcohol, drugs, or another health condition.

Hypomania

hypomanic episode is a period of mania that’s less severe than a full-blown manic episode. Though less severe than a manic episode, a hypomanic phase is still an event in which your behavior differs from your normal state. The differences will be extreme enough that people around you may notice that something is wrong.

Officially, a hypomanic episode isn’t considered hypomania if it’s influenced by drugs or alcohol.

Depression

Depressive symptoms in someone with bipolar disorder are like those of someone with clinical depression. They may include extended periods of sadness and hopelessness. You may also experience a loss of interest in people you once enjoyed spending time with and activities you used to like. Other symptoms include:

  • tiredness
  • irritability
  • trouble concentrating
  • changes in sleeping habits
  • changes in eating habits
  • thoughts of suicide

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What causes bipolar disorder?

Scientists don’t know what causes bipolar disorder. Abnormal physical characteristics of the brain or an imbalance in certain brain chemicals may be among the main causes.

As with many medical conditions, bipolar disorder tends to run in families. If you have a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder, your risk of developing it is higher. The search continues for the genes which may be responsible for bipolar disorder.

Researchers also believe that severe stress, drug or alcohol abuse, or severely upsetting experiences may trigger bipolar disorder. These experiences can include childhood abuse or the death of a loved one.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

A psychiatrist or other mental health professional typically diagnoses bipolar disorder. The diagnosis will include a review of both your medical history and any symptoms you have that are related to mania and depression. A trained professional will know what questions to ask.

It can be very helpful to bring a spouse or close friend with you during the doctor’s visit. They may be able to answer questions about your behavior that you may not be able to answer easily or accurately.

If you have symptoms that seem like bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, you can always start by telling your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist if your symptoms appear serious enough.

A blood test may also be part of the diagnostic process. There are no markers for bipolar disorder in the blood, but a blood test and a comprehensive physical exam may help rule out other possible causes for your behavior.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

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How is bipolar disorder treated?

Doctors usually treat bipolar disorder with a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Mood stabilizers are often the first drugs used in treatment. You may take these for a long time.

Lithium has been a widely used mood stabilizer for many years. It does have several potential side effects. These include low thyroid function, joint pain, and indigestion. It also requires blood tests to monitor therapeutic levels of the drug as well as kidney function. Antipsychotics can be used to treat manic episodes.

Your doctor may start you on a low dose of whichever medication you both decide to use in order to see how you respond. You may need a stronger dose than what they initially prescribe. You may also need a combination of medications or even different medications to control your symptoms.

All medications have potential side effects and interactions with other drugs. If you’re pregnant or you take other medications, be sure to tell your doctor before taking any new medications.

Writing in a diary can be an especially helpful part of your treatment. Keeping track of your moods, sleeping and eating patterns, and significant life events can help you and your doctor understand how therapy and medications are working.

If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse, your doctor may order a change in your medications or a different type of psychotherapy.

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

What is the outlook?

Bipolar disorder isn’t curable. But with proper treatment and support from family and friends, you can manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.

It’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions regarding medications and other lifestyle choices. This includes:

Including your friends and family members in your care can be especially helpful.

It’s also helpful to learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. The more you know about the condition, the more in control you may feel as you adjust to life after diagnosis.

You may be able to repair strained relationships. Educating others about bipolar disorder may make them more understanding of hurtful events from the past.

Support options

Support groups, both online and in person, can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder. They can also be beneficial for your friends and relatives. Learning about others’ struggles and triumphs may help you get through any challenges you may have.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance maintains a website that provides:

  • personal stories from people with bipolar disorder
  • contact information for support groups across the United States
  • information about the condition and treatments
  • material for caregivers and loved ones of those with bipolar disorder

The National Alliance on Mental Illness can also help you find support groups in your area. Good information about bipolar disorder and other conditions can also be found on its website.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, you should always remember that this is a condition you can manage. You aren’t alone. Talk to your doctor or call a local hospital to find out about support groups or other local resources.

Last medically reviewed on January 10, 2019

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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by James Roland — Updated on January 10, 2019

How to Deal with the Uncertainty of Bipolar Episodes

Overview

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness which causes severe shifts in mood ranging from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Bipolar disorder shifts in mood may occur several times a year, or only rarely.

There are several types of bipolar disorder, including the following:

  • Bipolar I disorder, characterized by at least one manic episode. This may or may not be followed by a depressive episode.
  • Bipolar II disorder, characterized by at least one major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks, and at least one episode of hypomania (a milder condition than mania) that lasts for at least four days.
  • Cyclothymic disorder, characterized by at least two years of symptoms. With this condition, the person has many episodes of hypomanic symptoms that don’t meet the full criteria for a hypomanic episode. They also have depressive symptoms that don’t meet the full diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode. They’re never without symptoms for longer than two months at a time.

The specific symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on which type of bipolar disorder is diagnosed. However, some symptoms are common in most people with bipolar disorder. These symptoms include:

  • anxiety
  • trouble concentrating
  • irritability
  • mania and depression at the same time
  • disinterest and loss of pleasure in most activities
  • an inability to feel better when good things happen
  • psychosis that causes a detachment from reality, often resulting in delusions (false but strong beliefs) and hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that don’t exist)

In the United States, bipolar disorder affects about 2.8 percent of adults. If you have a friend, family member, or significant other with bipolar disorder, it’s important to be patient and understanding of their condition. Helping a person with bipolar disorder isn’t always easy though. Here’s what you should know.

How can you help someone during a manic episode?

During a manic episode, a person will experience feelings of high energy, creativity, and possibly joy. They’ll talk very quickly, get very little sleep, and may act hyperactively. They may also feel invincible, which can lead to risk-taking behaviors.

Symptoms of a manic episode

Some common symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • an unusually “high” or optimistic attitude
  • extreme irritability
  • unreasonable (usually grand) ideas about one’s skills or power — they may criticize partners or family members for not being as “accomplished” as they perceive themselves to be
  • abundant energy
  • racing thoughts that jump between different ideas
  • being easily distracted
  • trouble concentrating
  • impulsiveness and poor judgment
  • reckless behavior with no thought about consequences
  • delusions and hallucinations (less common)

During these episodes, a person with bipolar disorder may act recklessly. Sometimes they go as far as endangering their own life or the lives of people around them. Remember that this person can’t fully control their actions during episodes of mania. Therefore, it’s not always an option to try to reason with them to try to stop behaving a certain way.

Warning signs of a manic episode

It can be helpful to keep an eye out for the warning signs of a manic episode so that you can react accordingly. People with bipolar disorder may show different symptoms, but some common warning signs include:

  • a very sudden lift in mood
  • an unrealistic sense of optimism
  • sudden impatience and irritability
  • a surge in energy and talkativeness
  • an expression of unreasonable ideas
  • spending money in reckless or irresponsible ways

How to help during a manic episode

How to react depends on the severity of the person’s manic episode. In some cases, doctors may recommend that the person increase their medication, take a different medication, or even be brought to the hospital for treatment. Keep in mind that convincing your loved one to go to the hospital may not be easy. This is because they feel really good during these periods and are convinced that nothing is wrong with them.

In general, try to avoid entertaining any grand or unrealistic ideas from your loved one, as this may increase their likelihood to engage in risky behavior. Talk calmly to the person and encourage them to contact their medical provider to discuss the changes in their symptoms.

Taking care of yourself

Some people find that living with a person with a chronic mental health condition like bipolar disorder can be difficult. Negative behaviors exhibited by someone who is manic are often focused on those closest to them.

Honest discussions with your loved one while they’re not having a manic episode, as well as counseling, may be helpful. But if you’re having trouble handling your loved one’s behavior, be sure to reach out for help. Talk to your loved one’s doctor for information, contact family and friends for support, and consider joining a support group.

How can you help someone during a depressive episode?

Just as it can be challenging to help a loved one through a manic episode, it can be tough to help them through a depressive episode.

Symptoms of a depressive episode

Some common symptoms of a depressive episode include:

  • sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness
  • irritability
  • inability to take pleasure in activities
  • fatigue or loss of energy
  • physical and mental lethargy
  • changes in weight or appetite, such as gaining weight and eating too much, or losing weight and eating too little
  • problems with sleep, such as sleeping too much or too little
  • problems focusing or remembering things
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • thoughts about death or suicide

How to help during a depressive episode

Just as with a manic episode, doctors may suggest a change in medication, an increase in medication, or a hospital stay for a person having a depressive episode with suicidal thoughts. Again, you’ll want to develop a coping plan for depressive episodes with your loved one when they’re not showing any symptoms. During an episode they may lack the motivation to come up with such plans.

You can also help a loved one during a depressive episode. Listen attentively, offer helpful coping advice, and try to boost them up by focusing on their positive attributes. Always talk to them in a nonjudgmental way and offer to help them with little day-to-day things they may be struggling with.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

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What are signs of an emergency?

Some signs of an emergency include:

  • violent behavior or speech
  • risky behavior
  • threatening behavior or speech
  • suicidal speech or actions, or talk about death

In general, feel free to help the person as long as they don’t appear to be posing a risk to their life or the lives of others. Be patient, attentive to their speech and behavior, and supportive in their care.

But in some cases, it’s not always possible to help a person through a manic or depressive episode and you’ll need to get expert help. Call the person’s doctor right away if you’re concerned about how the episode is escalating.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

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Suicide prevention

If you think your loved one is considering suicide, you can get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. One good option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

But if you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.Be sure to tell the dispatcher that your loved one has a mental health condition and requires special care.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Remove any guns, knives, medications, or other things that may cause harm.
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

Outlook

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. At times, it can be a real challenge for both you and your loved one — so be sure to consider your own needs as well as theirs. It can help to keep in mind that with proper treatmentcoping skills, and support, most people with bipolar disorder can manage their condition and live healthy, happy lives.

And if you need some more ideas, here’s more ways to help someone living with bipolar disorder.

Last medically reviewed on January 30, 2018

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has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

How to Pick Your Mental Health Professional

Therapy is an important part of treating bipolar disorder. Seeking therapy with a qualified therapist you trust is crucial to good mental health. Use these pointers to help choose the right therapist for you.

Choose a Therapy Format

Therapy is offered in both private and group settings. Choosing the right therapy format for you will help you feel relaxed and willing to share.

If you prefer a private setting, a one-on-one talk therapy session might be the best option.

If you want to know you’re not alone in your condition, group therapy may help you overcome those feelings. It may also help you feel more connected to others who are experiencing similar problems.

Learn more about the types of doctors that treat bipolar disorder »

Get a Consultation

Most mental health professionals will begin with a phone consultation. This is a time for you to describe why you’re seeking treatment and to discuss the details of your condition. You can ask any questions you’d like during this consultation. Try to think of some questions that you’d like to ask the therapist before the consultation: What is their general philosophy? How do they connect with their patients? What is their experience?

You can also ask for a face-to-face consultation so that you can meet a potential therapist in person. This can make a big difference in your assessment. It’s perfectly normal to meet a therapist in person and not click with them right away. If you get even the slightest hint that you may not feel comfortable with the therapist, politely state that you don’t believe the relationship will work out. But don’t give up. Instead, continue your search until you find someone who suits you.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off.FIND A THERAPIST

Evaluate Your Therapist’s Methods

To get the best therapy available, you must have a good working relationship with your therapist. Several factors contribute to this, including your therapist’s listening skills and how closely your values align.

For example, you may not enjoy certain techniques, such as hypnotherapy. Also, you don’t want to seek therapy from anyone you feel is judgmental or unsupportive of your efforts. Similarly, some therapeutic orientations may feel uncomfortable for you if they’re more directive than others.

All therapy takes time, so be wary if your therapist gives you quick fixes without providing you with the tools you need for long-term stability. This could include being too eager to please you, such as always blaming others for your problems. A therapist should be on your side, but should also challenge you to confront your own role.

Read the Fine Print

Just as important as the style of therapy is how you can fit it into your life. When choosing a type of therapy, there are some important logistical concerns.

Find a therapist that’s easy to get to. The easier it is to travel to therapy, the less likely you’ll miss an appointment. You’ll also be able to arrive to the appointment in a calm mood and ready to share.

When you first meet your therapist, agree on a price for your sessions and how often you will see each other. If the cost is way beyond what you can afford, you should negotiate the price or find something that better suits your income. The financial impact of therapy shouldn’t be yet another stressor.

Ask about your therapist’s educational background. You should feel satisfied that they have the knowledge they need to help you. Make sure they have a license as well, and don’t be afraid to research them on the Internet.

Training and experience are two different things. Ask your therapist how much experience they have, including years in the field.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

To help support your mental wellness, we’ll send you treatment advice, mood-management tips, and personal stories.Enter your emailSIGN UP NOW

Your privacy is important to us

Establish Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any good relationship, especially one where you’ll be telling someone your deepest emotional troubles and secrets.

Tone, demeanor, and other factors can affect the way we view someone. If you’re not clicking with your therapist, you should mention it to them. If they’re truly professional, your therapist will help find someone else for you to see. If they take offense, then you know it’s time to find another therapist.

Therapy involves teamwork, so it’s important that you feel that you and your therapist are on the same team.

The Takeaway

It’s often difficult to reach out to a professional if you’re having mental health problems. But therapy can be a highly effective method of treatment. Therapists are trained to help people just like you. Knowing which questions to ask and what to look for can help you find the perfect therapist.

Last medically reviewed on March 16, 2016

 3 sourcesexpanded

 editorial policy.

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Brian Krans — Updated on June 5, 2020

FEEDBACK:

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020

How to Pick Your Mental Health Professional

Therapy is an important part of treating bipolar disorder. Seeking therapy with a qualified therapist you trust is crucial to good mental health. Use these pointers to help choose the right therapist for you.

Choose a Therapy Format

Therapy is offered in both private and group settings. Choosing the right therapy format for you will help you feel relaxed and willing to share.

If you prefer a private setting, a one-on-one talk therapy session might be the best option.

If you want to know you’re not alone in your condition, group therapy may help you overcome those feelings. It may also help you feel more connected to others who are experiencing similar problems.

Learn more about the types of doctors that treat bipolar disorder »

Get a Consultation

Most mental health professionals will begin with a phone consultation. This is a time for you to describe why you’re seeking treatment and to discuss the details of your condition. You can ask any questions you’d like during this consultation. Try to think of some questions that you’d like to ask the therapist before the consultation: What is their general philosophy? How do they connect with their patients? What is their experience?

You can also ask for a face-to-face consultation so that you can meet a potential therapist in person. This can make a big difference in your assessment. It’s perfectly normal to meet a therapist in person and not click with them right away. If you get even the slightest hint that you may not feel comfortable with the therapist, politely state that you don’t believe the relationship will work out. But don’t give up. Instead, continue your search until you find someone who suits you.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off.FIND A THERAPIST

Evaluate Your Therapist’s Methods

To get the best therapy available, you must have a good working relationship with your therapist. Several factors contribute to this, including your therapist’s listening skills and how closely your values align.

For example, you may not enjoy certain techniques, such as hypnotherapy. Also, you don’t want to seek therapy from anyone you feel is judgmental or unsupportive of your efforts. Similarly, some therapeutic orientations may feel uncomfortable for you if they’re more directive than others.

All therapy takes time, so be wary if your therapist gives you quick fixes without providing you with the tools you need for long-term stability. This could include being too eager to please you, such as always blaming others for your problems. A therapist should be on your side, but should also challenge you to confront your own role.

Read the Fine Print

Just as important as the style of therapy is how you can fit it into your life. When choosing a type of therapy, there are some important logistical concerns.

Find a therapist that’s easy to get to. The easier it is to travel to therapy, the less likely you’ll miss an appointment. You’ll also be able to arrive to the appointment in a calm mood and ready to share.

When you first meet your therapist, agree on a price for your sessions and how often you will see each other. If the cost is way beyond what you can afford, you should negotiate the price or find something that better suits your income. The financial impact of therapy shouldn’t be yet another stressor.

Ask about your therapist’s educational background. You should feel satisfied that they have the knowledge they need to help you. Make sure they have a license as well, and don’t be afraid to research them on the Internet.

Training and experience are two different things. Ask your therapist how much experience they have, including years in the field.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

To help support your mental wellness, we’ll send you treatment advice, mood-management tips, and personal stories.Enter your emailSIGN UP NOW

Your privacy is important to us

Establish Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any good relationship, especially one where you’ll be telling someone your deepest emotional troubles and secrets.

Tone, demeanor, and other factors can affect the way we view someone. If you’re not clicking with your therapist, you should mention it to them. If they’re truly professional, your therapist will help find someone else for you to see. If they take offense, then you know it’s time to find another therapist.

Therapy involves teamwork, so it’s important that you feel that you and your therapist are on the same team.

The Takeaway

It’s often difficult to reach out to a professional if you’re having mental health problems. But therapy can be a highly effective method of treatment. Therapists are trained to help people just like you. Knowing which questions to ask and what to look for can help you find the perfect therapist.

Last medically reviewed on March 16, 2016


Please Stop Believing These 8 Harmful Bipolar Disorder Myths

What do successful people like musician Demi Lovato, comedian Russell Brand, news anchor Jane Pauley, and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones have in common? They, like millions of others, are living with bipolar disorder. When I received my diagnosis in 2012, I knew very little about the condition. I didn’t even know it ran in my family. So, I researched and researched, reading book after book on the subject, talking to my doctors, and educating myself until I understood what was going on.

Although we are learning more about bipolar disorder, there remain many misconceptions. Here are a few myths and facts, so you can arm yourself with knowledge and help end the stigma.

1. Myth: Bipolar disorder is a rare condition.

Fact: Bipolar disorder affects 2 million adults in the United States alone. One in five Americans has a mental health condition.

2. Myth: Bipolar disorder is just mood swings, which everybody has.

Fact: The highs and lows of bipolar disorder are very different from common mood swings. People with bipolar disorder experience extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep that are not typical for them.

The psychiatry research manager at one U.S. university, who wishes to stay anonymous, writes, “Just because you wake up happy, get grumpy in the middle of the day, and then end up happy again, it doesn’t mean you have bipolar disorder — no matter how often it happens to you! Even a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder requires several days in a row of (hypo)manic symptoms, not just several hours. Clinicians look for groups of symptoms more than just emotions.”

3. Myth: There is only one type of bipolar disorder.

Fact: There are four basic types of bipolar disorder, and the experience is different per individual.

  • Bipolar I is diagnosed when a person has one or more depressive episodes and one or more manic episodes, sometimes with psychotic features such as hallucinations or delusions.
  • Bipolar II has depressive episodes as its major feature and at least one
    hypomanic episode. Hypomania is a less severe type of mania. A person with
    bipolar II disorder may experience either mood-congruent or
    mood-incongruent psychotic symptoms.
  • Cyclothymic disorder (cyclothymia) is defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years (1 year in children and adolescents) without meeting the severity requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
  • Bipolar disorder otherwise not specified does not follow a particular pattern and is defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.

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Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off. FIND A THERAPIST

4. Myth: Bipolar disorder can be cured through diet and exercise.

Fact: Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness and there currently is no cure. However, it can be well-managed with medication and talk therapy, by avoiding stress, and maintaining regular patterns of sleeping, eating, and exercise.

5. Myth: Mania is productive. You’re in a good mood and fun to be around.

Fact: In some instances, a manic person may feel good at first, but without treatment things can become detrimental and even terrifying. They may go on a big shopping spree, spending beyond their means. Some people become overly anxious or highly irritable, getting upset over small things and snapping at loved ones. A manic person may lose control of their thoughts and actions and even lose touch with reality.

6. Myth: Artists with bipolar disorder will lose their creativity if they get treatment.

Fact: Treatment often allows you to think more clearly, which will likely improve your work. Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Marya Hornbacher discovered this firsthand.

“I was very persuaded I would never write again when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But before, I wrote one book; and now I’m on my seventh.”

She has found that her work is even better with treatment.

“When I was working on my second book, I was not yet treated for bipolar disorder, and I wrote about 3,000 pages of the worst book that you have ever seen in your life. And then, in the middle of writing that book, which I just somehow couldn’t finish because I kept writing and writing and writing, I got diagnosed and I got treated. And the book itself, the book that was ultimately published, I wrote in 10 months or so. Once I got treated for my bipolar disorder, I was able to channel the creativity effectively and focus. Nowadays I deal with some symptoms, but by and large I just go about my day,” she said. “Once you get a handle on it, it’s certainly livable. It’s treatable. You can work with it. It doesn’t have to define your life.” She discusses her experience in her book “Madness: A Bipolar Life,” and she is currently working on a follow-up book about her road to recovery.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

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7. Myth: People with bipolar disorder are always either manic or depressed.

Fact: People with bipolar disorder can experience long periods of even, balanced mood called euthymia. Conversely, they may sometimes experience what’s referred to as a “mixed episode,” which has features of both mania and depression at the same time.

8. Myth: All medications for bipolar disorder are the same.

Fact: It might take some trial and error to find the medication that works for you. “There are several mood stabilizers/antipsychotic medications available to treat bipolar disorder. Something that works for one person might not work for another. If someone tries one and it doesn’t work or has side effects, it’s very important that they communicate this to their provider. The provider should be there to work as a team with the patient to find the right fit,” writes the psychiatry research manager.

Takeaway

One in five people is diagnosed with a mental illness, including bipolar disorder. I, like so many others, have responded extremely well to treatment. My daily life is normal, and my relationships are stronger than ever. I haven’t had an episode for several years. My career is strong, and my marriage to an extremely supportive husband is a solid as a rock.

I urge you to learn about the common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and talk to your doctor if you meet any of the criteria for diagnosis. If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help immediately. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It’s time to end the stigma that prevents people from getting the help that can improve or save their lives.

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Mara Robinson — Updated on November 6, 2019

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Mara Robinson is a freelance marketing communications specialist with more than 15 years of experience. She has created many forms of communication for a wide variety of clients, including feature articles, product descriptions, ad copy, sales materials, packaging, press kits, newsletters, and more. She also is an avid photographer and music lover who can frequently be found photographing rock concerts at MaraRobinson.com.

Last medically reviewed on June 1, 2017

Managing Bipolar Disorder and Work

Overview

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition which can cause severe shifts in mood.

People with bipolar disorder can “cycle” from high moods (called mania and hypomania) to extremely low moods (depression). These mood shifts, along with other symptoms of bipolar disorder, can create a unique set of challenges in someone’s personal and social life.

Bipolar disorder and other mental health conditons have the potential to make it difficult for a person to find and keep a job or to function at work, especially if symptoms are currently affecting day-to-day functioning.

In one survey, 88 percent of people with bipolar disorder or depression said their condition has affected their work performance. About 58 percent of them quit working outside the home altogether.

There are many challenges related to having bipolar disorder and keeping a job. However, experts say that work can actually be quite helpful to people with bipolar disorder.

Work can give people a sense of structure, reduce depression, and increase confidence. This may help to enhance overall mood and empower you.

What are the best jobs for people with bipolar disorder?

There is no one-size-fits-all job for anyone. This is also true for people with bipolar disorder.

Instead, people with the condition should look for work that suits them as an individual. Here are some things to consider when deciding what kind of job is right for you:

What’s the work environment like?

Will this job support your lifestyle and help you grow as an individual, or will it be too challenging in terms of stress and erratic hours?

For many people with bipolar disorder, a quiet and relaxed workspace can help them to maintain regular schedules which can improve overall functioning.

What’s the schedule like?

Part-time work with an adaptable schedule can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder. It can also be helpful to work during the day.

Overnight and night shifts, or jobs that require you to be on call at night, may not be a good idea because sleep is very important. Maintaining a normal sleep/wake pattern can be beneficial with bipolar disorder.

What will your co-workers be like?

Seek a job where your co-workers have values in line with your own, and who also embrace work-life balance, as this is important to your overall health and well-being.

Having supportive co-workers is also helpful for feeling understood and coping during stressful situations, so seek out those that will support you.

Is the job creative?

Many people with bipolar disorder do best when they have a job where they can be creative. It can be helpful to find a job where you can be creative at work or a job that gives you enough free time for creative projects.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should dig a bit deeper to try to better understand yourself so you find a job you’d enjoy.

Think about your:

  • interests
  • strengths and abilities
  • skills
  • personality traits
  • values
  • physical health
  • limits, triggers, and barriers

Once you narrow down your job choices, do some more in-depth career research. You can look at O*NET to learn more about each job’s characteristics, including:

  • working duties
  • required skills
  • required education or training
  • required license or certificate
  • usual work hours
  • work conditions (physical demands, environment, and stress level)
  • salary and benefits
  • opportunities to advance
  • employment outlook

If you can’t find a job that suits you, perhaps you may want to consider starting your own business. You can create your own job that allows for more creativity and flexibility than you may find if you work for someone else.

However, running your business has its own set of challenges. Depending on what you feel you need, you may prefer a regular structured schedule if you’re living with bipolar disorder.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off.FIND A THERAPIST

How can work-related stress affect a person with bipolar disorder?

Some work environments can be unpredictable, demanding, and difficult. All of this can cause stress.

For someone with bipolar disorder, this stress can have an overall negative impact on your physical and mental health.

To manage stress at work:

  • take breaks often and regularly, even if you’re not sure if you need one
  • use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation to reduce your stress
  • listen to relaxing music or a recording of nature sounds
  • take a walk around the block at lunch
  • talk to your support network if you need help
  • take time off of work for therapy and treatment when necessary

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help reduce your work stress. Exercise regularly, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and be sure to stick to your treatment plan.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

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What legal rights does someone with bipolar disorder have at work?

Legally, you don’t have to tell your employer any of your health information, unless you could put others at risk.

While generally people are more open today about discussing mental illness, there’s still a stigma. It’s not right, but people may treat you differently if they know you have a psychiatric condition — and this may include the people you work with.

On the other hand, there are many people who are understanding of mental health conditions and the challenges they can cause at work. For this reason, in some cases it can actually be helpful for you to share your bipolar diagnosis with your boss and the human resources department.

If those who work with you are aware of your condition, they may be more likely to accommodate you in ways that will reduce your workplace stress and make your overall working experience more enjoyable.

No one can discriminate you for living with bipolar disorder in the workplace. This is illegal.

If you decide to tell your employer about your health condition, Mental Health Works and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have resources to help you have that conversation.

Moving forward

Sometimes you’ll be able to find a great job by yourself — but if you’re having trouble, it can be very helpful for you to seek professional assistance.

Some free and low-cost sources of help include:

  • vocational rehabilitation
  • your school or alma mater
  • government or employment services

It’s not always easy to find and keep work if you have a mental health condition that disturbs your day-to-day functioning, but with extra effort it’s possible to find a fulfilling job.

Keep this in mind as you move forward with your job hunt.

Last medically reviewed on September 15, 2017

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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020

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Has anyone ever told you about this Disorder? Or, did you ever think this about yourself, or someone else? There are more people right around you who suffer unknowingly, causing bad relationships and destroying good ones. We present from Healthline – here to help.

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What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms can include an extremely elevated mood called mania. They can also include episodes of depression. Bipolar disorder is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression.

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People with bipolar disorder may have trouble managing everyday life tasks at school or work, or maintaining relationships. There’s no cure, but there are many treatment options available that can help to manage the symptoms. Learn the signs of bipolar disorder to watch for.

Bipolar disorder facts

Bipolar disorder isn’t a rare brain disorder. In fact, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults — or about 5 million people — have been diagnosed with it. The average age when people with bipolar disorder begin to show symptoms is 25 years old.

Depression caused by bipolar disorder lasts at least two weeks. A high (manic) episode can last for several days or weeks. Some people will experience episodes of changes in mood several times a year, while others may experience them only rarely. Here’s what having bipolar disorder feels like for some people.

Bipolar disorder symptoms

There are three main symptoms that can occur with bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, and depression.

While experiencing mania, a person with bipolar disorder may feel an emotional high. They can feel excited, impulsive, euphoric, and full of energy. During manic episodes, they may also engage in behavior such as:

Hypomania is generally associated with bipolar II disorder. It’s similar to mania, but it’s not as severe. Unlike mania, hypomania may not result in any trouble at work, school, or in social relationships. However, people with hypomania still notice changes in their mood.

During an episode of depression you may experience:

Although it’s not a rare condition, bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose because of its varied symptoms. Find out about the symptoms that often occur during high and low periods.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in women

Men and women are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in equal numbers. However, the main symptoms of the disorder may be different between the two genders. In many cases, a woman with bipolar disorder may:

Women with bipolar disorder may also relapse more often. This is believed to be caused by hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. If you’re a woman and think you may have bipolar disorder, it’s important for you to get the facts. Here’s what you need to know about bipolar disorder in women.

Bipolar disorder symptoms in men

Men and women both experience common symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, men may experience symptoms differently than women. Men with bipolar disorder may:

Men with bipolar disorder are less likely than women to seek medical care on their own. They’re also more likely to die by suicide.

Types of bipolar disorder

There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is defined by the appearance of at least one manic episode. You may experience hypomanic or major depressive episodes before and after the manic episode. This type of bipolar disorder affects men and women equally.

Bipolar II

People with this type of bipolar disorder experience one major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks. They also have at least one hypomanic episode that lasts about four days. This type of bipolar disorder is thought to be more common in women.

Cyclothymia

People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania and depression. These symptoms are shorter and less severe than the mania and depression caused by bipolar I or bipolar II disorder. Most people with this condition only experience a month or two at a time where their moods are stable.

When discussing your diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell you what kind of bipolar disorder you have. In the meantime, learn more about the types of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder in children

Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children is controversial. This is largely because children don’t always display the same bipolar disorder symptoms as adults. Their moods and behaviors may also not follow the standards doctors use to diagnose the disorder in adults.

Many bipolar disorder symptoms that occur in children also overlap with symptoms from a range of other disorders that can occur in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

However, in the last few decades, doctors and mental health professionals have come to recognize the condition in children. A diagnosis can help children get treatment, but reaching a diagnosis may take many weeks or months. Your child may need to seek special care from a professional trained to treat children with mental health issues.

Like adults, children with bipolar disorder experience episodes of elevated mood. They can appear very happy and show signs of excitable behavior. These periods are then followed by depression. While all children experience mood changes, changes caused by bipolar disorder are very pronounced. They’re also usually more extreme than a child’s typical change in mood.

Manic symptoms in children

Symptoms of a child’s manic episode caused by bipolar disorder can include:

Depressive symptoms in children

Symptoms of a child’s depressive episode caused by bipolar disorder can include:

Other possible diagnoses

Some of the behavior issues you may witness in your child could be the result of another condition. ADHD and other behavior disorders can occur in children with bipolar disorder. Work with your child’s doctor to document your child’s unusual behaviors, which will help lead to a diagnosis.

Finding the correct diagnosis can help your child’s doctor determine treatments that can help your child live a healthy life. Read more about bipolar disorder in children.

Bipolar disorder in teens

Angst-filled behavior is nothing new to the average parent of a teenager. The shifts in hormones, plus the life changes that come with puberty, can make even the most well-behaved teen seem a little upset or overly emotional from time to time. However, some teenage changes in mood may be the result of a more serious condition, such as bipolar disorder.

A bipolar disorder diagnosis is most common during the late teens and early adult years. For teenagers, the more common symptoms of a manic episode include:

For teenagers, the more common symptoms of a depressive episode include:

Diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder can help teens live a healthy life. Learn more about bipolar disorder in teenagers and how to treat it.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off. FIND A THERAPIST

Bipolar disorder and depression

Bipolar disorder can have two extremes: up and down. To be diagnosed with bipolar, you must experience a period of mania or hypomania. People generally feel “up” in this phase of the disorder. When you’re experiencing an “up” change in mood, you may feel highly energized and be easily excitable.

Some people with bipolar disorder will also experience a major depressive episode, or a “down” mood. When you’re experiencing a “down” change in mood, you may feel lethargic, unmotivated, and sad. However, not all people with bipolar disorder who have this symptom feel “down” enough to be labeled depressed. For instance, for some people, once their mania is treated, a normal mood may feel like depression because they enjoyed the “high” caused by the manic episode.

While bipolar disorder can cause you to feel depressed, it’s not the same as the condition called depression. Bipolar disorder can cause highs and lows, but depression causes moods and emotions that are always “down.” Discover the differences between bipolar disorder and depression.

Causes of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a common mental health disorder, but it’s a bit of a mystery to doctors and researchers. It’s not yet clear what causes some people to develop the condition and not others.

Possible causes of bipolar disorder include:

Genetics

If your parent or sibling has bipolar disorder, you’re more likely than other people to develop the condition (see below). However, it’s important to keep in mind that most people who have bipolar disorder in their family history don’t develop it.

Your brain

Your brain structure may impact your risk for the disease. Abnormalities in the structure or functions of your brain may increase your risk.

Environmental factors

It’s not just what’s in your body that can make you more likely to develop bipolar disorder. Outside factors may contribute, too. These factors can include:

Each of these factors may influence who develops bipolar disorder. What’s more likely, however, is that a combination of factors contributes to the development of the disease. Here’s what you need to know about the potential causes of bipolar disorder.

Is bipolar disorder hereditary?

Bipolar disorder can be passed from parent to child. Research has identified a strong genetic link in people with the disorder. If you have a relative with the disorder, your chances of also developing it are four to six times higher than people without a family history of the condition.

However, this doesn’t mean that everyone with relatives who have the disorder will develop it. In addition, not everyone with bipolar disorder has a family history of the disease.

Still, genetics seem to play a considerable role in the incidence of bipolar disorder. If you have a family member with bipolar disorder, find out whether screening might be a good idea for you.

Bipolar disorder diagnosis

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder (i) involves either one or more manic episodes, or mixed (manic and depressive) episodes. It may also include a major depressive episode, but it may not. A diagnosis of bipolar (ii) involves one or more major depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania.

To be diagnosed with a manic episode, you must experience symptoms that last for at least one week or that cause you to be hospitalized. You must experience symptoms almost all day every day during this time. Major depressive episodes, on the other hand, must last for at least two weeks.

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose because mood swings can vary. It’s even harder to diagnose in children and adolescents. This age group often has greater changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels.

Bipolar disorder often gets worse if it’s left untreated. Episodes may happen more often or become more extreme. But if you receive treatment for your bipolar disorder, it’s possible for you to lead a healthy and productive life. Therefore, diagnosis is very important. See how bipolar disorder is diagnosed.

Bipolar disorder symptoms test

One test result doesn’t make a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Instead, your doctor will use several tests and exams. These may include:

Your doctor may use other tools and tests to diagnose bipolar disorder in addition to these. Read about other tests that can help confirm a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder treatment

Several treatments are available that can help you manage your bipolar disorder. These include medications, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Some natural remedies may also be helpful.

Medications

Recommended medications may include:

Psychotherapy

Recommended psychotherapy treatments may include:

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy. You and a therapist talk about ways to manage your bipolar disorder. They will help you understand your thinking patterns. They can also help you come up with positive coping strategies. You can connect to a mental health care professional in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is a kind of counseling that helps you and your loved ones understand the disorder. Knowing more about bipolar disorder will help you and others in your life manage it.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) focuses on regulating daily habits, such as sleeping, eating, and exercising. Balancing these everyday basics can help you manage your disorder.

Other treatment options

Other treatment options may include:

Lifestyle changes

There are also some simple steps you can take right now to help manage your bipolar disorder:

Other lifestyle changes can also help relieve depressive symptoms caused by bipolar disorder. Check out these seven ways to help manage a depressive episode.

Natural remedies for bipolar disorder

Some natural remedies may be helpful for bipolar disorder. However, it’s important not to use these remedies without first talking with your doctor. These treatments could interfere with medications you’re taking.

The following herbs and supplements may help stabilize your mood and relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Several other minerals and vitamins may also reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. Here’s 10 alternative treatments for bipolar disorder.

Tips for coping and support

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Bipolar disorder affects about 60 million peopleTrusted Source around the world.

One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself and those around you. There are many resources available. For instance, SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator provides treatment information by ZIP code. You can also find additional resources at the site for the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, make an appointment with your doctor. If you think a friend, relative, or loved one may have bipolar disorder, your support and understanding is crucial. Encourage them to see a doctor about any symptoms they’re having. And read how to help someone living with bipolar disorder.

People who are experiencing a depressive episode may have suicidal thoughts. You should always take any talk of suicide seriously.

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Bipolar disorder and relationships

When it comes to managing a relationship while you live with bipolar disorder, honesty is the best policy. Bipolar disorder can have an impact on any relationship in your life, perhaps especially on a romantic relationship. So, it’s important to be open about your condition.

There’s no right or wrong time to tell someone you have bipolar disorder. Be open and honest as soon as you’re ready. Consider sharing these facts to help your partner better understand the condition:

One of the best ways to support and make a relationship successful is to stick with your treatment. Treatment helps you reduce symptoms and scale back the severity of your changes in mood. With these aspects of the disorder under control, you can focus more on your relationship.

Your partner can also learn ways to promote a healthy relationship. Check out this guide to maintaining healthy relationships while coping with bipolar disorder, which has tips for both you and your partner.

Living with bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness. That means you’ll live and cope with it for the rest of your life. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy, healthy life.

Treatment can help you manage your changes in mood and cope with your symptoms. To get the most out of treatment, you may want to create a care team to help you. In addition to your primary doctor, you may want to find a psychiatrist and psychologist. Through talk therapy, these doctors can help you cope with symptoms of bipolar disorder that medication can’t help.

You may also want to seek out a supportive community. Finding other people who’re also living with this disorder can give you a group of people you can rely on and turn to for help.

Finding treatments that work for you requires perseverance. Likewise, you need to have patience with yourself as you learn to manage bipolar disorder and anticipate your changes in mood. Together with your care team, you’ll find ways to maintain a normal, happy, healthy life.

While living with bipolar disorder can be a real challenge, it can help to maintain a sense of humor about life. For a chuckle, check out this list of 25 things only someone with bipolar disorder would understand.

Last medically reviewed on January 18, 2018

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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Kimberly Holland and Emma Nicholls and the Healthline Editorial Team on January 18, 2018

Bipolar disorder symptoms test

One test result doesn’t make a bipolar disorder diagnosis. Instead, your doctor will use several tests and exams. These may include:

Your doctor may use other tools and tests to diagnose bipolar disorder in addition to these. Read about other tests that can help confirm a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder treatment

Several treatments are available that can help you manage your bipolar disorder. These include medications, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Some natural remedies may also be helpful.

Medications

Recommended medications may include:

Psychotherapy

Recommended psychotherapy treatments may include:

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy. You and a therapist talk about ways to manage your bipolar disorder. They will help you understand your thinking patterns. They can also help you come up with positive coping strategies. You can connect to a mental health care professional in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.

Psychoeducation

Psychoeducation is a kind of counseling that helps you and your loved ones understand the disorder. Knowing more about bipolar disorder will help you and others in your life manage it.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT) focuses on regulating daily habits, such as sleeping, eating, and exercising. Balancing these everyday basics can help you manage your disorder.

Other treatment options

Other treatment options may include:

Lifestyle changes

There are also some simple steps you can take right now to help manage your bipolar disorder:

Other lifestyle changes can also help relieve depressive symptoms caused by bipolar disorder. Check out these seven ways to help manage a depressive episode.

Natural remedies for bipolar disorder

Some natural remedies may be helpful for bipolar disorder. However, it’s important not to use these remedies without first talking with your doctor. These treatments could interfere with medications you’re taking.

The following herbs and supplements may help stabilize your mood and relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder:

Several other minerals and vitamins may also reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder. Here’s 10 alternative treatments for bipolar disorder.

Tips for coping and support

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Bipolar disorder affects about 60 million peopleTrusted Source around the world.

One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself and those around you. There are many resources available. For instance, SAMHSA’s behavioral health treatment services locator provides treatment information by ZIP code. You can also find additional resources at the site for the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, make an appointment with your doctor. If you think a friend, relative, or loved one may have bipolar disorder, your support and understanding is crucial. Encourage them to see a doctor about any symptoms they’re having. And read how to help someone living with bipolar disorder.

People who are experiencing a depressive episode may have suicidal thoughts. You should always take any talk of suicide seriously.

If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. Try the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Bipolar disorder and relationships

When it comes to managing a relationship while you live with bipolar disorder, honesty is the best policy. Bipolar disorder can have an impact on any relationship in your life, perhaps especially on a romantic relationship. So, it’s important to be open about your condition.

There’s no right or wrong time to tell someone you have bipolar disorder. Be open and honest as soon as you’re ready. Consider sharing these facts to help your partner better understand the condition:

One of the best ways to support and make a relationship successful is to stick with your treatment. Treatment helps you reduce symptoms and scale back the severity of your changes in mood. With these aspects of the disorder under control, you can focus more on your relationship.

Your partner can also learn ways to promote a healthy relationship. Check out this guide to maintaining healthy relationships while coping with bipolar disorder, which has tips for both you and your partner.

Bipolar 1 Disorder and Bipolar 2 Disorder: What Are the Differences?

Understanding bipolar disorder

Most people have emotional ups and downs from time to time. But if you have a brain condition called bipolar disorder, your feelings can reach abnormally high or low levels.

Sometimes you may feel immensely excited or energetic. Other times, you may find yourself sinking into a deep depression. Some of these emotional peaks and valleys can last for weeks or months.

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar 1 and 2 disorders are more common than the other types of bipolar disorder. Read on to learn how these two types are alike and different.

Bipolar 1 vs. bipolar 2

All types of bipolar disorder are characterized by episodes of extreme mood. The highs are known as manic episodes. The lows are known as depressive episodes.

The main difference between bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorders lies in the severity of the manic episodes caused by each type.

A person with bipolar 1 will experience a full manic episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience only a hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full manic episode).

A person with bipolar 1 may or may not experience a major depressive episode, while a person with bipolar 2 will experience a major depressive episode.

What is bipolar 1 disorder?

You must have had at least one manic episode to be diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. A person with bipolar 1 disorder may or may not have a major depressive episode. The symptoms of a manic episode may be so severe that you require hospital care.

Manic episodes are usually characterized by the following:

The symptoms of a manic episode tend to be so obvious and intrusive that there’s little doubt that something is wrong.

What is bipolar 2 disorder?

Bipolar 2 disorder involves a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode (a period that’s less severe than a full-blown manic episode). People with bipolar 2 typically don’t experience manic episodes intense enough to require hospitalization.

Bipolar 2 is sometimes misdiagnosed as depression, as depressive symptoms may be the major symptom at the time the person seeks medical attention. When there are no manic episodes to suggest bipolar disorder, the depressive symptoms become the focus.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

As mentioned above, bipolar 1 disorder causes mania and may cause depression, while bipolar 2 disorder causes hypomania and depression. Let’s learn more about what these symptoms mean.

Mania

manic episode is more than just a feeling of elation, high energy, or being distracted. During a manic episode, the mania is so intense that it can interfere with your daily activities. It’s difficult to redirect someone in a manic episode toward a calmer, more reasonable state.

People who are in the manic phase of bipolar disorder can make some very irrational decisions, such as spending large amounts of money that they can’t afford to spend. They may also engage in high-risk behaviors, such as sexual indiscretions despite being in a committed relationship.

An episode can’t be officially deemed manic if it’s caused by outside influences such as alcohol, drugs, or another health condition.

Hypomania

hypomanic episode is a period of mania that’s less severe than a full-blown manic episode. Though less severe than a manic episode, a hypomanic phase is still an event in which your behavior differs from your normal state. The differences will be extreme enough that people around you may notice that something is wrong.

Officially, a hypomanic episode isn’t considered hypomania if it’s influenced by drugs or alcohol.

Depression

Depressive symptoms in someone with bipolar disorder are like those of someone with clinical depression. They may include extended periods of sadness and hopelessness. You may also experience a loss of interest in people you once enjoyed spending time with and activities you used to like. Other symptoms include:

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What causes bipolar disorder?

Scientists don’t know what causes bipolar disorder. Abnormal physical characteristics of the brain or an imbalance in certain brain chemicals may be among the main causes.

As with many medical conditions, bipolar disorder tends to run in families. If you have a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder, your risk of developing it is higher. The search continues for the genes which may be responsible for bipolar disorder.

Researchers also believe that severe stress, drug or alcohol abuse, or severely upsetting experiences may trigger bipolar disorder. These experiences can include childhood abuse or the death of a loved one.

How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?

A psychiatrist or other mental health professional typically diagnoses bipolar disorder. The diagnosis will include a review of both your medical history and any symptoms you have that are related to mania and depression. A trained professional will know what questions to ask.

It can be very helpful to bring a spouse or close friend with you during the doctor’s visit. They may be able to answer questions about your behavior that you may not be able to answer easily or accurately.

If you have symptoms that seem like bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, you can always start by telling your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a mental health specialist if your symptoms appear serious enough.

A blood test may also be part of the diagnostic process. There are no markers for bipolar disorder in the blood, but a blood test and a comprehensive physical exam may help rule out other possible causes for your behavior.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

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How is bipolar disorder treated?

Doctors usually treat bipolar disorder with a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Mood stabilizers are often the first drugs used in treatment. You may take these for a long time.

Lithium has been a widely used mood stabilizer for many years. It does have several potential side effects. These include low thyroid function, joint pain, and indigestion. It also requires blood tests to monitor therapeutic levels of the drug as well as kidney function. Antipsychotics can be used to treat manic episodes.

Your doctor may start you on a low dose of whichever medication you both decide to use in order to see how you respond. You may need a stronger dose than what they initially prescribe. You may also need a combination of medications or even different medications to control your symptoms.

All medications have potential side effects and interactions with other drugs. If you’re pregnant or you take other medications, be sure to tell your doctor before taking any new medications.

Writing in a diary can be an especially helpful part of your treatment. Keeping track of your moods, sleeping and eating patterns, and significant life events can help you and your doctor understand how therapy and medications are working.

If your symptoms don’t improve or get worse, your doctor may order a change in your medications or a different type of psychotherapy.

Online therapy options

Read our review of the best online therapy options to find the right fit for you.

What is the outlook?

Bipolar disorder isn’t curable. But with proper treatment and support from family and friends, you can manage your symptoms and maintain your quality of life.

It’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions regarding medications and other lifestyle choices. This includes:

Including your friends and family members in your care can be especially helpful.

It’s also helpful to learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. The more you know about the condition, the more in control you may feel as you adjust to life after diagnosis.

You may be able to repair strained relationships. Educating others about bipolar disorder may make them more understanding of hurtful events from the past.

Support options

Support groups, both online and in person, can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder. They can also be beneficial for your friends and relatives. Learning about others’ struggles and triumphs may help you get through any challenges you may have.

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance maintains a website that provides:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness can also help you find support groups in your area. Good information about bipolar disorder and other conditions can also be found on its website.

If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, you should always remember that this is a condition you can manage. You aren’t alone. Talk to your doctor or call a local hospital to find out about support groups or other local resources.

Last medically reviewed on January 10, 2019

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 3 sourcesexpandedHealthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by James Roland — Updated on January 10, 2019

How to Deal with the Uncertainty of Bipolar Episodes

Overview

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental illness which causes severe shifts in mood ranging from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression). Bipolar disorder shifts in mood may occur several times a year, or only rarely.

There are several types of bipolar disorder, including the following:

The specific symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on which type of bipolar disorder is diagnosed. However, some symptoms are common in most people with bipolar disorder. These symptoms include:

In the United States, bipolar disorder affects about 2.8 percent of adults. If you have a friend, family member, or significant other with bipolar disorder, it’s important to be patient and understanding of their condition. Helping a person with bipolar disorder isn’t always easy though. Here’s what you should know.

How can you help someone during a manic episode?

During a manic episode, a person will experience feelings of high energy, creativity, and possibly joy. They’ll talk very quickly, get very little sleep, and may act hyperactively. They may also feel invincible, which can lead to risk-taking behaviors.

Symptoms of a manic episode

Some common symptoms of a manic episode include:

During these episodes, a person with bipolar disorder may act recklessly. Sometimes they go as far as endangering their own life or the lives of people around them. Remember that this person can’t fully control their actions during episodes of mania. Therefore, it’s not always an option to try to reason with them to try to stop behaving a certain way.

Warning signs of a manic episode

It can be helpful to keep an eye out for the warning signs of a manic episode so that you can react accordingly. People with bipolar disorder may show different symptoms, but some common warning signs include:

How to help during a manic episode

How to react depends on the severity of the person’s manic episode. In some cases, doctors may recommend that the person increase their medication, take a different medication, or even be brought to the hospital for treatment. Keep in mind that convincing your loved one to go to the hospital may not be easy. This is because they feel really good during these periods and are convinced that nothing is wrong with them.

In general, try to avoid entertaining any grand or unrealistic ideas from your loved one, as this may increase their likelihood to engage in risky behavior. Talk calmly to the person and encourage them to contact their medical provider to discuss the changes in their symptoms.

Taking care of yourself

Some people find that living with a person with a chronic mental health condition like bipolar disorder can be difficult. Negative behaviors exhibited by someone who is manic are often focused on those closest to them.

Honest discussions with your loved one while they’re not having a manic episode, as well as counseling, may be helpful. But if you’re having trouble handling your loved one’s behavior, be sure to reach out for help. Talk to your loved one’s doctor for information, contact family and friends for support, and consider joining a support group.

How can you help someone during a depressive episode?

Just as it can be challenging to help a loved one through a manic episode, it can be tough to help them through a depressive episode.

Symptoms of a depressive episode

Some common symptoms of a depressive episode include:

How to help during a depressive episode

Just as with a manic episode, doctors may suggest a change in medication, an increase in medication, or a hospital stay for a person having a depressive episode with suicidal thoughts. Again, you’ll want to develop a coping plan for depressive episodes with your loved one when they’re not showing any symptoms. During an episode they may lack the motivation to come up with such plans.

You can also help a loved one during a depressive episode. Listen attentively, offer helpful coping advice, and try to boost them up by focusing on their positive attributes. Always talk to them in a nonjudgmental way and offer to help them with little day-to-day things they may be struggling with.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

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What are signs of an emergency?

Some signs of an emergency include:

In general, feel free to help the person as long as they don’t appear to be posing a risk to their life or the lives of others. Be patient, attentive to their speech and behavior, and supportive in their care.

But in some cases, it’s not always possible to help a person through a manic or depressive episode and you’ll need to get expert help. Call the person’s doctor right away if you’re concerned about how the episode is escalating.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

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Suicide prevention

If you think your loved one is considering suicide, you can get help from a crisis or suicide prevention hotline. One good option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

But if you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person:

Outlook

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. At times, it can be a real challenge for both you and your loved one — so be sure to consider your own needs as well as theirs. It can help to keep in mind that with proper treatmentcoping skills, and support, most people with bipolar disorder can manage their condition and live healthy, happy lives.

And if you need some more ideas, here’s more ways to help someone living with bipolar disorder.

Last medically reviewed on January 30, 2018

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How to Pick Your Mental Health Professional

Therapy is an important part of treating bipolar disorder. Seeking therapy with a qualified therapist you trust is crucial to good mental health. Use these pointers to help choose the right therapist for you.

Choose a Therapy Format

Therapy is offered in both private and group settings. Choosing the right therapy format for you will help you feel relaxed and willing to share.

If you prefer a private setting, a one-on-one talk therapy session might be the best option.

If you want to know you’re not alone in your condition, group therapy may help you overcome those feelings. It may also help you feel more connected to others who are experiencing similar problems.

Learn more about the types of doctors that treat bipolar disorder »

Get a Consultation

Most mental health professionals will begin with a phone consultation. This is a time for you to describe why you’re seeking treatment and to discuss the details of your condition. You can ask any questions you’d like during this consultation. Try to think of some questions that you’d like to ask the therapist before the consultation: What is their general philosophy? How do they connect with their patients? What is their experience?

You can also ask for a face-to-face consultation so that you can meet a potential therapist in person. This can make a big difference in your assessment. It’s perfectly normal to meet a therapist in person and not click with them right away. If you get even the slightest hint that you may not feel comfortable with the therapist, politely state that you don’t believe the relationship will work out. But don’t give up. Instead, continue your search until you find someone who suits you.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off.FIND A THERAPIST

Evaluate Your Therapist’s Methods

To get the best therapy available, you must have a good working relationship with your therapist. Several factors contribute to this, including your therapist’s listening skills and how closely your values align.

For example, you may not enjoy certain techniques, such as hypnotherapy. Also, you don’t want to seek therapy from anyone you feel is judgmental or unsupportive of your efforts. Similarly, some therapeutic orientations may feel uncomfortable for you if they’re more directive than others.

All therapy takes time, so be wary if your therapist gives you quick fixes without providing you with the tools you need for long-term stability. This could include being too eager to please you, such as always blaming others for your problems. A therapist should be on your side, but should also challenge you to confront your own role.

Read the Fine Print

Just as important as the style of therapy is how you can fit it into your life. When choosing a type of therapy, there are some important logistical concerns.

Find a therapist that’s easy to get to. The easier it is to travel to therapy, the less likely you’ll miss an appointment. You’ll also be able to arrive to the appointment in a calm mood and ready to share.

When you first meet your therapist, agree on a price for your sessions and how often you will see each other. If the cost is way beyond what you can afford, you should negotiate the price or find something that better suits your income. The financial impact of therapy shouldn’t be yet another stressor.

Ask about your therapist’s educational background. You should feel satisfied that they have the knowledge they need to help you. Make sure they have a license as well, and don’t be afraid to research them on the Internet.

Training and experience are two different things. Ask your therapist how much experience they have, including years in the field.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

To help support your mental wellness, we’ll send you treatment advice, mood-management tips, and personal stories.Enter your emailSIGN UP NOW

Your privacy is important to us

Establish Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any good relationship, especially one where you’ll be telling someone your deepest emotional troubles and secrets.

Tone, demeanor, and other factors can affect the way we view someone. If you’re not clicking with your therapist, you should mention it to them. If they’re truly professional, your therapist will help find someone else for you to see. If they take offense, then you know it’s time to find another therapist.

Therapy involves teamwork, so it’s important that you feel that you and your therapist are on the same team.

The Takeaway

It’s often difficult to reach out to a professional if you’re having mental health problems. But therapy can be a highly effective method of treatment. Therapists are trained to help people just like you. Knowing which questions to ask and what to look for can help you find the perfect therapist.

Last medically reviewed on March 16, 2016

 3 sourcesexpanded

 editorial policy.

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Brian Krans — Updated on June 5, 2020

FEEDBACK:

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020

How to Pick Your Mental Health Professional

Therapy is an important part of treating bipolar disorder. Seeking therapy with a qualified therapist you trust is crucial to good mental health. Use these pointers to help choose the right therapist for you.

Choose a Therapy Format

Therapy is offered in both private and group settings. Choosing the right therapy format for you will help you feel relaxed and willing to share.

If you prefer a private setting, a one-on-one talk therapy session might be the best option.

If you want to know you’re not alone in your condition, group therapy may help you overcome those feelings. It may also help you feel more connected to others who are experiencing similar problems.

Learn more about the types of doctors that treat bipolar disorder »

Get a Consultation

Most mental health professionals will begin with a phone consultation. This is a time for you to describe why you’re seeking treatment and to discuss the details of your condition. You can ask any questions you’d like during this consultation. Try to think of some questions that you’d like to ask the therapist before the consultation: What is their general philosophy? How do they connect with their patients? What is their experience?

You can also ask for a face-to-face consultation so that you can meet a potential therapist in person. This can make a big difference in your assessment. It’s perfectly normal to meet a therapist in person and not click with them right away. If you get even the slightest hint that you may not feel comfortable with the therapist, politely state that you don’t believe the relationship will work out. But don’t give up. Instead, continue your search until you find someone who suits you.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off.FIND A THERAPIST

Evaluate Your Therapist’s Methods

To get the best therapy available, you must have a good working relationship with your therapist. Several factors contribute to this, including your therapist’s listening skills and how closely your values align.

For example, you may not enjoy certain techniques, such as hypnotherapy. Also, you don’t want to seek therapy from anyone you feel is judgmental or unsupportive of your efforts. Similarly, some therapeutic orientations may feel uncomfortable for you if they’re more directive than others.

All therapy takes time, so be wary if your therapist gives you quick fixes without providing you with the tools you need for long-term stability. This could include being too eager to please you, such as always blaming others for your problems. A therapist should be on your side, but should also challenge you to confront your own role.

Read the Fine Print

Just as important as the style of therapy is how you can fit it into your life. When choosing a type of therapy, there are some important logistical concerns.

Find a therapist that’s easy to get to. The easier it is to travel to therapy, the less likely you’ll miss an appointment. You’ll also be able to arrive to the appointment in a calm mood and ready to share.

When you first meet your therapist, agree on a price for your sessions and how often you will see each other. If the cost is way beyond what you can afford, you should negotiate the price or find something that better suits your income. The financial impact of therapy shouldn’t be yet another stressor.

Ask about your therapist’s educational background. You should feel satisfied that they have the knowledge they need to help you. Make sure they have a license as well, and don’t be afraid to research them on the Internet.

Training and experience are two different things. Ask your therapist how much experience they have, including years in the field.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

To help support your mental wellness, we’ll send you treatment advice, mood-management tips, and personal stories.Enter your emailSIGN UP NOW

Your privacy is important to us

Establish Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of any good relationship, especially one where you’ll be telling someone your deepest emotional troubles and secrets.

Tone, demeanor, and other factors can affect the way we view someone. If you’re not clicking with your therapist, you should mention it to them. If they’re truly professional, your therapist will help find someone else for you to see. If they take offense, then you know it’s time to find another therapist.

Therapy involves teamwork, so it’s important that you feel that you and your therapist are on the same team.

The Takeaway

It’s often difficult to reach out to a professional if you’re having mental health problems. But therapy can be a highly effective method of treatment. Therapists are trained to help people just like you. Knowing which questions to ask and what to look for can help you find the perfect therapist.

Last medically reviewed on March 16, 2016


Please Stop Believing These 8 Harmful Bipolar Disorder Myths

What do successful people like musician Demi Lovato, comedian Russell Brand, news anchor Jane Pauley, and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones have in common? They, like millions of others, are living with bipolar disorder. When I received my diagnosis in 2012, I knew very little about the condition. I didn’t even know it ran in my family. So, I researched and researched, reading book after book on the subject, talking to my doctors, and educating myself until I understood what was going on.

Although we are learning more about bipolar disorder, there remain many misconceptions. Here are a few myths and facts, so you can arm yourself with knowledge and help end the stigma.

1. Myth: Bipolar disorder is a rare condition.

Fact: Bipolar disorder affects 2 million adults in the United States alone. One in five Americans has a mental health condition.

2. Myth: Bipolar disorder is just mood swings, which everybody has.

Fact: The highs and lows of bipolar disorder are very different from common mood swings. People with bipolar disorder experience extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep that are not typical for them.

The psychiatry research manager at one U.S. university, who wishes to stay anonymous, writes, “Just because you wake up happy, get grumpy in the middle of the day, and then end up happy again, it doesn’t mean you have bipolar disorder — no matter how often it happens to you! Even a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder requires several days in a row of (hypo)manic symptoms, not just several hours. Clinicians look for groups of symptoms more than just emotions.”

3. Myth: There is only one type of bipolar disorder.

Fact: There are four basic types of bipolar disorder, and the experience is different per individual.

ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off. FIND A THERAPIST

4. Myth: Bipolar disorder can be cured through diet and exercise.

Fact: Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness and there currently is no cure. However, it can be well-managed with medication and talk therapy, by avoiding stress, and maintaining regular patterns of sleeping, eating, and exercise.

5. Myth: Mania is productive. You’re in a good mood and fun to be around.

Fact: In some instances, a manic person may feel good at first, but without treatment things can become detrimental and even terrifying. They may go on a big shopping spree, spending beyond their means. Some people become overly anxious or highly irritable, getting upset over small things and snapping at loved ones. A manic person may lose control of their thoughts and actions and even lose touch with reality.

6. Myth: Artists with bipolar disorder will lose their creativity if they get treatment.

Fact: Treatment often allows you to think more clearly, which will likely improve your work. Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Marya Hornbacher discovered this firsthand.

“I was very persuaded I would never write again when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But before, I wrote one book; and now I’m on my seventh.”

She has found that her work is even better with treatment.

“When I was working on my second book, I was not yet treated for bipolar disorder, and I wrote about 3,000 pages of the worst book that you have ever seen in your life. And then, in the middle of writing that book, which I just somehow couldn’t finish because I kept writing and writing and writing, I got diagnosed and I got treated. And the book itself, the book that was ultimately published, I wrote in 10 months or so. Once I got treated for my bipolar disorder, I was able to channel the creativity effectively and focus. Nowadays I deal with some symptoms, but by and large I just go about my day,” she said. “Once you get a handle on it, it’s certainly livable. It’s treatable. You can work with it. It doesn’t have to define your life.” She discusses her experience in her book “Madness: A Bipolar Life,” and she is currently working on a follow-up book about her road to recovery.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

To help support your mental wellness, we’ll send you treatment advice, mood-management tips, and personal stories.Enter your emailSIGN UP NOW

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7. Myth: People with bipolar disorder are always either manic or depressed.

Fact: People with bipolar disorder can experience long periods of even, balanced mood called euthymia. Conversely, they may sometimes experience what’s referred to as a “mixed episode,” which has features of both mania and depression at the same time.

8. Myth: All medications for bipolar disorder are the same.

Fact: It might take some trial and error to find the medication that works for you. “There are several mood stabilizers/antipsychotic medications available to treat bipolar disorder. Something that works for one person might not work for another. If someone tries one and it doesn’t work or has side effects, it’s very important that they communicate this to their provider. The provider should be there to work as a team with the patient to find the right fit,” writes the psychiatry research manager.

Takeaway

One in five people is diagnosed with a mental illness, including bipolar disorder. I, like so many others, have responded extremely well to treatment. My daily life is normal, and my relationships are stronger than ever. I haven’t had an episode for several years. My career is strong, and my marriage to an extremely supportive husband is a solid as a rock.

I urge you to learn about the common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, and talk to your doctor if you meet any of the criteria for diagnosis. If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help immediately. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It’s time to end the stigma that prevents people from getting the help that can improve or save their lives.

Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Mara Robinson — Updated on November 6, 2019

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Mara Robinson is a freelance marketing communications specialist with more than 15 years of experience. She has created many forms of communication for a wide variety of clients, including feature articles, product descriptions, ad copy, sales materials, packaging, press kits, newsletters, and more. She also is an avid photographer and music lover who can frequently be found photographing rock concerts at MaraRobinson.com.

Last medically reviewed on June 1, 2017

Managing Bipolar Disorder and Work

Overview

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition which can cause severe shifts in mood.

People with bipolar disorder can “cycle” from high moods (called mania and hypomania) to extremely low moods (depression). These mood shifts, along with other symptoms of bipolar disorder, can create a unique set of challenges in someone’s personal and social life.

Bipolar disorder and other mental health conditons have the potential to make it difficult for a person to find and keep a job or to function at work, especially if symptoms are currently affecting day-to-day functioning.

In one survey, 88 percent of people with bipolar disorder or depression said their condition has affected their work performance. About 58 percent of them quit working outside the home altogether.

There are many challenges related to having bipolar disorder and keeping a job. However, experts say that work can actually be quite helpful to people with bipolar disorder.

Work can give people a sense of structure, reduce depression, and increase confidence. This may help to enhance overall mood and empower you.

What are the best jobs for people with bipolar disorder?

There is no one-size-fits-all job for anyone. This is also true for people with bipolar disorder.

Instead, people with the condition should look for work that suits them as an individual. Here are some things to consider when deciding what kind of job is right for you:

What’s the work environment like?

Will this job support your lifestyle and help you grow as an individual, or will it be too challenging in terms of stress and erratic hours?

For many people with bipolar disorder, a quiet and relaxed workspace can help them to maintain regular schedules which can improve overall functioning.

What’s the schedule like?

Part-time work with an adaptable schedule can be helpful for people with bipolar disorder. It can also be helpful to work during the day.

Overnight and night shifts, or jobs that require you to be on call at night, may not be a good idea because sleep is very important. Maintaining a normal sleep/wake pattern can be beneficial with bipolar disorder.

What will your co-workers be like?

Seek a job where your co-workers have values in line with your own, and who also embrace work-life balance, as this is important to your overall health and well-being.

Having supportive co-workers is also helpful for feeling understood and coping during stressful situations, so seek out those that will support you.

Is the job creative?

Many people with bipolar disorder do best when they have a job where they can be creative. It can be helpful to find a job where you can be creative at work or a job that gives you enough free time for creative projects.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should dig a bit deeper to try to better understand yourself so you find a job you’d enjoy.

Think about your:

Once you narrow down your job choices, do some more in-depth career research. You can look at O*NET to learn more about each job’s characteristics, including:

If you can’t find a job that suits you, perhaps you may want to consider starting your own business. You can create your own job that allows for more creativity and flexibility than you may find if you work for someone else.

However, running your business has its own set of challenges. Depending on what you feel you need, you may prefer a regular structured schedule if you’re living with bipolar disorder.ADVERTISEMENTAffordable therapy delivered digitally – Try BetterHelp

Choose from BetterHelp’s vast network of therapists for your therapy needs. Take a quiz, get matched, and start getting support via secure phone or video sessions. Plans start at $60 per week + an additional 10% off.FIND A THERAPIST

How can work-related stress affect a person with bipolar disorder?

Some work environments can be unpredictable, demanding, and difficult. All of this can cause stress.

For someone with bipolar disorder, this stress can have an overall negative impact on your physical and mental health.

To manage stress at work:

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help reduce your work stress. Exercise regularly, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep, and be sure to stick to your treatment plan.HEALTHLINE NEWSLETTERGet our weekly Bipolar Disorder email

To help support your mental wellness, we’ll send you treatment advice, mood-management tips, and personal stories.Enter your emailSIGN UP NOW

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What legal rights does someone with bipolar disorder have at work?

Legally, you don’t have to tell your employer any of your health information, unless you could put others at risk.

While generally people are more open today about discussing mental illness, there’s still a stigma. It’s not right, but people may treat you differently if they know you have a psychiatric condition — and this may include the people you work with.

On the other hand, there are many people who are understanding of mental health conditions and the challenges they can cause at work. For this reason, in some cases it can actually be helpful for you to share your bipolar diagnosis with your boss and the human resources department.

If those who work with you are aware of your condition, they may be more likely to accommodate you in ways that will reduce your workplace stress and make your overall working experience more enjoyable.

No one can discriminate you for living with bipolar disorder in the workplace. This is illegal.

If you decide to tell your employer about your health condition, Mental Health Works and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have resources to help you have that conversation.

Moving forward

Sometimes you’ll be able to find a great job by yourself — but if you’re having trouble, it can be very helpful for you to seek professional assistance.

Some free and low-cost sources of help include:

It’s not always easy to find and keep work if you have a mental health condition that disturbs your day-to-day functioning, but with extra effort it’s possible to find a fulfilling job.

Keep this in mind as you move forward with your job hunt.

Last medically reviewed on September 15, 2017

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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020

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Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D., CRNP — Written by Erica Cirino — Updated on July 6, 2020