Bipolar Disorder: When a Person Has a Fluctuating “Mood Switch”

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Bipolar Disorder: When a Person Has a Fluctuating “Mood Switch”

2.8% of American adults have Bipolar Disorder/ Photo By Photographeeeu via Shutterstock


Everyone has experienced different mood shifts in their lives. Although it is natural for people to change moods, Bipolar Disorder takes this to an extreme. Individuals who experience this may struggle with doing their daily tasks.  This intense and often abrupt switch of moods which happen to them can interfere with their sleep cycle, their perception and the way they act.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that in the past year, 2.8% of American adults have Bipolar Disorder.  It is revealed to be more prevalent in men than in women.


Definition of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder, as explained by Health Navigator New Zealand, is a mental illness characterized by fluctuations in moods. These fluctuations in moods are categorized into two which are mania and depression. Mania is when a person experiences an extremely high mood while depression is when the person experiences an extremely low mood.

This was formerly known as Manic Depression. It is also known by the name Bipolar Affective Disorder.

People who suffer from Bipolar Disorder have intense mood swings that can occur within hours, days or months.


Four Types of Bipolar Disorder

This mental illness is further classified by the National Alliance of Mental Illness into four types: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Cyclothymia, Unspecified Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is described as a condition where an individual at least one manic episode or at least one mixed episode.  A person will only be diagnosed with this type of Bipolar disorder if they are experiencing manic episodes for at least one week or if the symptoms that manifests have become so severe it requires the patient to be hospitalized.

Bipolar II

In Bipolar II, the person experiences depressive episodes that switch back and forth to hypomanic episodes. Hypomania is a mild form of mania or an elevated mood.

People who have this will are unable to experience a full manic episode.

Cyclothymia or Cyclothymic Disorder

This kind of Bipolar Disorder is characterized as a condition where a person experiences a continual mood instability. They will experience mood states that swing from hypomania to depression that repeatedly occurs in two years.

They have experienced a short duration wherein they would have a normal mood, but these usually last for only eight days.

Unspecified or Other Specified Bipolar Disorder

People who are diagnosed with this type do not fit the descriptions of the first three types of Bipolar Disorder but have experienced an abnormal rise of their mood.


80% of Bipolar cases are caused by genetics/ Photo By Seasontime via Shutterstock


What Are the Causes?

Experts have not yet been able to identify what is the singular cause of Bipolar Disorder.  However, there are three factors that may possibly cause this: genetics, stress and brain structure and function.

There are reports that 80% of Bipolar cases are caused by genetics. If a person has a parent or a sibling who is suffering from this condition, the risk for acquiring it is heightened.

Going through stressful circumstances may also be the cause of developing this condition. If they have experienced stressful situations which may include a death of a loved one, financial problems or having a serious illness this can cause them to have a manic or depressive episode. The manner in which a person deals with stress can be a factor in the buildup of Bipolar Disorder.

The difference in a person’s brain structure and function may also be a reason. Scientists have found that those with Bipolar Disorder have minor differences in size and function compared to the average brain.

In addition, says that losing sleep, engaging in substance abuse, medication, and seasonal changes may also cause a person to develop this disorder. Being deprived of sleep can cause a person to have a manic episode. Substance abuse may not be a cause of bipolar but may worsen their condition. Some forms of medication such as antidepressants are also known to trigger mania.


What Are the Symptoms?

A person affected by Bipolar disorder will show symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depression. There will also be a period where they may experience a combination of these.


When an individual experiences mania, they will feel an extreme elevation in their mood. They may get huge bursts of energy, feel exhilarated, and feel very creative. This may cause a person to become hyperactive. When going through a manic episode, they may talk quickly or may sleep for only short periods of time.

Even though it can make them feel as if nothing can stop them, experiencing manic episodes have their downsides.  This may cause them to act recklessly and may also make them feel angry, irritable and aggressive. They may be prone to fighting people who try to correct their behavior or who do not agree with their plans.

Signs that a person is experiencing a manic episode include:

1. Feeling oddly optimistic or extremely annoyed

2. Lacking sleep yet still feeling energetic

 3. Talking so fast which makes it difficult for people to understand them

4. Getting easily distracted and finding it hard to concentrate

5. Being impulsive and having an impaired judgment

6. Acting without thinking about the negative effects of their actions

7. Hallucinating and having delusions



Hypomania is just a milder form of mania. In this state a person may also feel energetic and productive but without losing their sense of reality. On the surface, it makes the individual appear as if they in a strangely good mood.  However, making bad choices while experiencing a hypomanic episode can destroy many aspects of their lives such as their career and their relationships.



When an individual experiences depressive episodes, they are likely to sleep more, talk and move slower as well as gain weight. 

In contrast to the regular or unipolar depression, bipolar depression cannot be easily treated with antidepressants. This medication may instead cause them to experience manic or hypomanic episodes. People who suffer from this feel more fidgety, have feelings of guilt and experience unpredictable mood swings.

The symptoms of Bipolar Depression are:

1. Feeling desperate, lonely and empty

2. Being unable to feel pleasure

3. Fatigue

4. Physical and mental sluggishness

5.Having problems with their sleep

6. Having noticeable differences to their  usual appetite and weight

7. Having difficulty concentrating and remembering memories

8. Feeling worthless or guilty

9. Having a desire to die or commit suicide


Mixed Episodes

A bipolar patient may also go through mixed episodes where they experience a mixture of the symptoms of either mania or hypomania and depression. The individual experiencing this may exhibit symptoms such as restlessness, anxiety, insomnia and racing thoughts.  This mixture of high energy and low mood make them more likely to attempt suicide.


psychotherapy is one of the treatments available for bipolar disorder/ Photo By Inneska Sakhno via Shutterstock


What Is Rapid Cycling?

Rapid cycling describes the event wherein an individual goes through four or more manic or depressive episode in at least a year.  The mood swings happen so suddenly which make them feel their mood shift from high to low and back within a few hours or days.


How Does One Treat Their Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder can be dealt with and treated. Dr. Kathleen Smith, a professional counselor recommends that the patient undergoes psychotherapy, takes medication, outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment and dual diagnosis treatment.



Psychotherapy or talk therapy can help a patient be educated about effective coping strategies and how to apply them.  Two kinds of psychotherapy are suggested: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Family Therapy.

Under Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a therapist may help change the negative thinking patterns of the patient and the actions that result from this negative way of thinking.

In Family Therapy, the family members of the individual with Bipolar disorder learn how to peacefully communicate with them and lessen stress in their relationships.



The medications that a mental health professional commonly prescribe include mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and sometimes, antidepressants. Mood stabilizers can help address manic or hypomanic episodes. Antipsychotics aid other medications in mood episode symptoms. Although prescribed rarely, antidepressants are also prescribed to treat bipolar depression.


Outpatient Treatment

People suffering from a mental illness may participate in day treatment programs. These programs offer individual and group intervention, medical support and peer support. They also tackle psychoeducation topics such as how to manage their symptoms and daily living skills.

They may also provide housing and vocational support for those who are in need.


Inpatient Treatment

A bipolar patient may need to be confined in a hospital or a long-term care facility when they experience intense mood instability or when they are having suicidal and psychotic thoughts and behaviors. The aim of this treatment is to help in making their mood stable and to assist them in finding outpatient support groups.

Being able to join a support group can reduce how often and how long they visit a hospital.


Dual Diagnosis Treatment

A study estimates that 56% who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder will simultaneously experience a drug or alcohol disorder.  If the individual has a personal or family record of substance or alcohol abuse, seeking treatment that focuses on the symptoms of both disorders may help them. It is advised that they treat withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and drugs first.

Bipolar patients must receive proper diagnosis. Then, they can seek a doctor’s help in referring them to other mental health professionals who can give them the best course of treatment. Depending on the type of Bipolar Disorders they have, they may be prescribed certain medication and be advised to undergo therapy.



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