Just the Facts

BP Disorder: Just the Facts

Bipolar Disorder what used to be known as Manic depressive illness is a medical condition in which people have extreme mood swings. Their mood swings have nothing to do with things going on in their lives. These swings do not only affect mood, they also affect how people think, behave and function. Bipolar disorder is a medical disorder that can be treated.

A person with bipolar disorder may show signs of depression or mania. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 1% of the adult population and is equally distributed between males and females and is more common in higher socioeconomic groups.

Most people start to see symptoms of Bipolar when they are around 25 years of age. However, there have been people who developed Bipolar disorder in their early childhoods or some develop it when they are as old as 40 or 50 years of age. Bipolar disorder crosses all genders, races, creeds and colors.

Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the whole world, reports the World Health Organization. Also according to studies, one in five people that have this illness will commit suicide. According to National Institute of Mental Health, people who have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder have 9.2 year reduction in life span.

Common Triggers:

  1. Stress: the most common and important.  The more stress the mind has the higher the chance of stress leading to or triggering an episode
  2. Drug  or Alcohol Abuse: Drugs and alcohol do not cause bipolar disorder, however, if mind altering substances are introduced, these may trigger some potentially dangerous episodes making the disorder worse, and therefore, amplifying the effects of both the substance and the episode. It has been determined that most drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy may trigger mania episodes, while tranquilizers and alcohol may trigger depressive episodes.
  3. Medication: Expectations that medications and prescriptions would help alleviate episodes, sometimes, they do the exact opposite.  Such medications such as anti-depressants have been known to trigger intense manic episodes as well as several over-the-counter medicines.  Keep an eye on these as the expected results may be the opposite of what truly may occur.
  4. Sleep Patterns: Sleep schedules may soon become a double-edged sword in the life of a bipolar individual.  Not only can the cycling of episodes trigger an unbalanced sleep schedule, but sleep deprivation  can also trigger manic episodes.  During the duration of the manic  phase, it is very difficult to ’slow the mind’ enough to relax and ultimately, cause the individual to crash into yet another exhaustive and depressive episode.
  5. Unhealthy habits. Lack of exercise can trigger either mania or depression, as can eating foods high in sugar (or other unhealthy foods).  An unpredictable life schedule is also a trigger for symptoms of bipolar  disorder.
  6. Predisposition to a mental illness.  The incidence of bipolar disorder among relatives of affected patients is  higher than in the general population and highest among maternal relatives. The closer the relationship, the greater the susceptibility.  Children with one affected parent have a 25% chance of developing bipolar disorder; children with two affected parents, a 50% chance. The incidence of this illness in siblings is 20% to 25%; in identical twins, the incidence is 66% to 96%.

Major Life Events That Can Trigger Bipolar Disorder

  1. Change in employment. Problems at work (or school) can lead to symptoms of manic depression; job loss, a search for new employment, and adjusting to a new work environment are particularly stressful. Problems with money can lead to an episode of  depression.
  2. Relationships. Divorce, separation, or the loss of a romantic partner can trigger bipolar disorder. Difficult personal relationships or the death or illness of a loved one can also  lead to symptoms, particularly of depression.
  3. Major life changes. Any stressful life event such as moving to anew city, state/province, or country, can lead to an episode of manic depression. Even happy life events – such as getting  married or winning the lottery – can upset equilibrium.

Physical Factors That Can Trigger Bipolar Disorder

  1. Seasonal Changes. Episodes of mania are more common in the summer; episodes of depression are more likely to occur in the winter. The light fluctuations make a difference.
  2. Menstruation. Every woman is affected differently by hormonal cycles, which can trigger symptoms of bipolar disorder. Regulating hormones can be an effective way to manage episodes of mania or depression.
  3. Thyroid changes. The thyroid keeps the body stabilized and functioning smoothly. Changes in thyroid levels can cause fatigue and weight gain, and can also trigger manic depression.

Signs and symptoms of depression include but are not limited to:

  • Sad mood
  • Preoccupation with failures or inadequacies
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of uselessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Excessive guilt
  • Slowed thinking
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty in concentrating and in making decisions
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, people
  • Social isolation
  • Lethargy,
  • Agitation
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Oversleeping or insomnia
  • Decreased sexual drive
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs and symptoms of mania include but are not limited to:

  • Elevated, expansive mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Rapid, unpredictable emotional changes
  • Racing thoughts, flights of ideas
  • Overreaction to stimuli
  • Misinterpretation of events
  • Increased interest in activities
  • Overspending
  • Sense of grandiosity
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Excessive energy
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Sexual indiscretions
  • Poor judgment


The most commonly used forms of treatment for depression and mania are medication and psychotherapy. They are used alone or in combination with other treatments. Approximately one in three people with bipolar disorder remain completely free of symptoms just by taking mood stabilizing medication. Some of the factors that determine the type of treatment are the nature of the symptoms, the severity and duration of the illness, possible precipitating causes and previous response to treatment.

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2 thoughts on “Just the Facts

  1. Your post, Just the Facts – Your Mental Health takes a Tribe -, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Anamaria!