May is Mental Health Awareness Month – Mental Health Post a Day in May – May 9th – Bipolar Disorder

 Bipolar Disorder

I have bipolar 1 disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a condition in which people experience intermittent abnormally elevated (manic or hypomanic) and, in many cases, abnormally depressed states for periods of time in a way that interferes with their functioning of life.

Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans, or about 2.6%. (National Institute of Mental Health)

The mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) are by far the most common psychiatric conditions associated with SUICIDE.

At least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder also attempt suicide at least once.

Bipolar Statistics

Total number of US adults who are currently diagnosed as Bi-Polar 5,890,000
Percent of US adults that suffer from a Bipolar disorder 2.65 %
Average age of a Bipolar disorder onset 25 years old
Percent chance a child will also develop a Bipolar disorder when 1 parent has an existing case 23 %
Percent chance a child will develop a Bipolar disorder when both parents are diagnosed 66 %
Average reduced life span for an individual who is Bipolar 9.2
Percentage of people diagnosed as Bipolar who commit suicide 20 %
Percent of Bi-Polar people who receive a correct diagnosis within 3 years from the onset of symptoms 25 %
Percentage of people with a Bi-Polar disorder who are are also obese 35%
Percent of individuals who found regular Lithium use eliminated their Bi-Polar disorder 77 %
Percent of people with a Bi-Polar disorder who will receive at least 1 misdiagnosis from a doctor or psychologist 70 %

(Sources: NIMH, CDC, DBS Alliance, Bipolarism, Bipolar Lifestyles)

Content Author: Statistic Brain.   Date research was conducted: September 2, 2016)

Bipolar disorder

  • Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods and changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.
  • People who have bipolar disorder can have periods in which they feel overly happy and energized and other periods of feeling very sad, hopeless, and sluggish.
  • How severe it gets differs from person to person and can also change over time, becoming more or less severe.
  • The dramatic episodes of high and low moods do not follow a set pattern.
  • You can think of the highs and the lows as two “poles” of mood, which is why it’s called “bipolar” disorder.
  • The word “manic” describes the times when someone with bipolar disorder feels overly excited and confident. These feelings can also involve irritability and impulsive or reckless decision-making. About half of people during mania can also have delusions (believing things that aren’t true and that they can’t be talked out of) or hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there).
  • Hypomania” describes milder symptoms of mania, in which someone does not have delusions or hallucinations, and their high symptoms do not interfere with their everyday life.
  • The word “depressive” describes the times when the person feels very sad or depressed. Those symptoms are the same as those described in major depressive disorder or “clinical depression,” a condition in which someone never has manic or hypomanic episodes.

Symptoms of mania (“the highs”)

  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech and poor concentration
  • Increased energy and less need for sleep
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Making grand and unrealistic plans
  • Showing poor judgment
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Becoming more impulsive

Symptoms of depression (“the lows”)

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Not enjoying things they once liked
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Needing more sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite changes that make them lose or gain weight
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempting suicide

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.

  • Bipolar I Disorder— I have Bipolar 1 Disorder – Bipolar 1 Disorder is defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
  • Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
  • Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above. (Last Revised: April 2016  NIMH – National I nstitue of Mental Health)

Bipolar Disorder with Mixed Episodes

  • I have mixed episodes.
  • A mixed episode (DSM-IV) is not a disorder itself, but rather is a description of a component of a specific type of bipolar disorder.
  • A mixed episode is defined by meeting the diagnostic criteria for both a manic episode as well as a major depressive episode nearly every day for at least a full week.
  • A period during which symptoms of a manic and a depressive episode are present at the same time.
  • People who experience mixed states describe feeling activated and “revved up,” but also full of anguish and despair.
  • Rapid, pressured speech can co-exist with impulsive, out-of-control thoughts of suicide and self-destruction or aggression.
  • Hopelessness, irritability, uncontrollable swings between racing thoughts and a feeling of “being in blackness” can all happen over the course of minutes.
  • In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. A person with mixed features experiences symptoms of both mood “poles” — mania and depression — simultaneously or in rapid sequence. Jun 4, 2015

Bipolar Disorder with Rapid Cycling

  • I have rapid cycling.
  • Rapid cycling is defined as four or more manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes in any 12-month period.
  • With rapid cycling, mood swings can quickly go from low to high and back again, and occur over periods of a few days and sometimes even hours.
  • The person feels like he or she is on a roller coaster, with mood and energy changes that are out-of control and disabling.
  • In some individuals, rapid cycling is characterized by severe irritability, anger, impulsivity, and uncontrollable outbursts.
  • While the term “rapid cycling” may make it sound as if the episodes occur in regular cycles, episodes actually often follow a random pattern.
  • Some patients with rapid cycling appear to experience true manic, mild manic, or depressive episodes that last only for a day.
  • If there are four mood episodes within a month, it is called ultra-rapid cycling.
  • When several mood switches occur within a day, or several days during one week, it is called ultra-ultra-rapid cycling or ultradian cycling.
  • I have ultra-ultra rapid cycling or ultradian rapid cycling. 
  • Typically, however, someone who experiences such short mood swings has longer episodes as well.
  • Some individuals experience rapid cycling at the beginning of their illness, but for the majority, rapid cycling begins gradually.
  • Most individuals with bipolar disorder, in fact, experience shorter and more frequent episodes over time if their illness is not adequately treated.
  • For most people, rapid cycling is a temporary occurrence.
  • They may experience rapid cycling for a time, then return to a pattern of longer, less frequent episodes, or, in the best case, return to a stabilized mood with the help of treatment. 
  • A small number of individuals continue in a rapid cycling pattern indefinitely. This has been me so far.

Who Gets Bipolar Disorder

  • When someone develops bipolar disorder, it usually starts in late adolescence or young adulthood. Rarely, it can happen earlier in childhood. Bipolar disorder can run in families.
  • Men and women are equally likely to get it.
  • Women are somewhat more likely than men to go through “rapid cycling,” which is having four or more distinct mood episodes within a year.
  • Many people with the condition abuse alcohol or other drugs when manic or depressed.
  • People with seasonal depression and certain anxiety disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are also more likely to have bipolar disorder.


  • There is no single cause.
  • Genes
  • Brain changes
  • and stress can all play a role.
  • Researchers are studying how these factors affect bipolar disorder.
  • Kindling (Sensitization):
  • According to the “kindling” theory, early episodes are triggered by actual or anticipated life events such as the death of a loved one or an upcoming job interview.
  • Over time, the person with the illness becomes increasingly sensitive to more minor “triggers” or stressors, and becomes more likely to have an episode in response to these events.
  • Eventually the person may begin to have episodes without any “triggers.”
  • Episodes become increasingly frequent and the end result of this process, when the illness is not properly treated, may be rapid, ultra-rapid or ultradian cycling.
  • Biological rhythm disturbances:
  • This theory proposes that people with rapid cycling have daily biological rhythms that are out of sync with typical “time-giving” events such as dawn and dusk.
  • This theory could account for the sleep disturbances typical of mania and depression and explain other symptoms as well.
  • If biological rhythms are important, a link between rapid cycling and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may be suggested.
  • It is also possible that abnormal daily biological rhythms do not cause the illness itself but do contribute to the length and seriousness of a manic or depressive episode. For example, if insomnia is treated early and aggressively, mild or moderate symptoms can be prevented from snowballing into a severe and destructive episode.
  • Hypothyroidism:
  • This theory proposes that rapid cycling is due to inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone in the brain.
  • Most people with rapid cycling do have adequate levels of thyroid hormone in the blood, but they may respond well to treatment with thyroid hormone regardless of their initial blood levels.


  • If you or someone you know has symptoms of bipolar disorder, talk to your family doctor or a psychiatrist.
  • They will ask questions about mental illnesses that you, or the person you’re concerned about, have had, and any mental illnesses that run in the family.
  • You’ll also get a checkup.
  • A person’s symptoms will be looked at to determine whether they may be the result of another cause (such as low thyroid, or mood symptoms caused by drug or alcohol abuse).
  • How severe are their symptoms?
  • How long have their symptoms lasted?
  • How often do their symptoms happen?
  • The most telling symptoms are those that involve highs or lows in mood, along with changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.
  • Talking to close friends and family of the person can often help the doctor distinguish bipolar disorder from major depressive (unipolar) disorder or other psychiatric disorders that can involve changes in mood, thinking, and behavior.


  • Bipolar disorder can be treated.
  • It’s a long-term condition that needs ongoing care.
  • Medication is the main treatment, usually involving “mood stabilizers” such as carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), lithium, or valproate (Depakote).
  • Sometimes antipsychotic drugs are also used such as olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), lurasidone (Latuda) and cariprazine (Vraylar))
  • As well as antidepressants.
  • Combinations of medicines are often used.
  • Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” is often recommended, too.
  • People who have four or more mood episodes in a year, or who also have drug or alcohol problems, can have forms of the illness that are much harder to treat.
  • Electro-convulsive Therapy – ECTs are very effective treatments for people that are highly sensitive to medication side effects, are medication resistant and/or also may have rapid cycling and/or mixed episodes and other severe types of bipolar that are difficult to treat. I have had many ECTs since my diagnosis and throughout my lifetime. ECTs saved my life for sure. ECTs were very effective for me, but do not work for everyone. (I will have a post a day in May describing ECTs in the near future).

For most people, a good treatment program can stabilize moods and provide symptom relief.

People who also have a substance abuse problem may need more specialized treatment.

Ongoing treatment is more effective than dealing with problems as they come up.

****Bipolar Disorder and Suicide****

The mood disorders (depression and bipolar disorder) are by far the most common psychiatric conditions associated with suicide. At least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder also attempt suicide at least once.

Many people who have bipolar disorder may become suicidal.

***Learn the warning signs of suicide and seek immediate medical help for them***

  • Depression (changes in eating, sleeping, activities)
  • Isolating yourself
  • Talking about suicide, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Acting recklessly
  • Taking more risks
  • Having more accidents
  • Abusing alcohol or other drugs
  • Focusing on morbid and negative themes
  • Talking about death and dying
  • Crying more, or becoming less emotionally expressive
  • Giving away possessions

(Source:  NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health.  © 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.)

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on November 21, 2015

I will be posting something important about mental illness every day throughout the month of May on my blog in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Please keep visiting my blog My Loud Bipolar Whispers and look for statistics or other beneficial information related to mental illness to increase awareness, educate, reduce mental illness stigma and reduce suicides. It is crucial and imperative for all of us to get involved and save lives. 

So, please visit my blog every day, but especially every day throughout the month of May.

Thank you. Hugs and blessings to all of you always and forever.


  1. I now know and understand which one I have. I read each description of the different types (which I didn’t know there are 4) and after reading each one thoroughly, I have Bipolar 2 (I was diagnosed, but forgot which one I had). I thank you so much for putting this post out there, especially for me because I’ve learned even more now than when I first got diagnosed back in 2008. Continue doing this, we need to bring more attention to this issue. Again, thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so very welcome. I am very happy you liked it and am very happy that in some way it helped you. That is my goal and my passion to help others. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. I appreciate them greatly. Have a healthy, happy and blessed day. Hugs, Sue

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, and you too. Can’t wait to read another post from you. Keep in touch 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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