Bipolar 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” mood swing, 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” mood swing, 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.”

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. 

Is bipolar 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. 

Bipolar 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.

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