Bipolar Disorder: Understanding the cause, effects and treatments

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Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. Medical experts have discovered that these mood swings can alter your sleeping pattern, interfere with the ability to think, behaviour, judgment, activity and energy. Bipolar is also known as manic depression or bipolar disease. One may ask where the sickness derives its name from.

Why the name “bipolar” disorder?

Bipolar disorder comes with a swing mood. Those suffering from bipolar can have periods in which they feel over ecstatic and energized and sometimes, they feel sad and hopeless and in between they are normal. The highs and lows represent the poles of moods known as bipolar. The time when an individual feels elated, irritated and energized is called manic whereas when he or she (very good use of nonsexist pronoun!!) feels indifferent and hopeless is described as depressive. A hypomanic period is a time they (very good use of nonsexist pronoun!!)  are experiencing less effect of manic episodes.

Types of bipolar disorder

According to the US National Institute of Mental Health, there are three types of bipolar;

1. Bipolar I disorder

Here one has a manic episode, which lasts for about one week. Depressive episodes can also occur as well for a period of at least 14 days.

2. Bipolar II disorder

This is defined by one major depressive episode and one hypomanic episode

3. Cyclothymic Disorder

Here one experiences episodes of hypomanic and depressive for at least 2 years.


There are many speculations as well as academic works in the area of bipolar disorder, especially, regarding the cause of sickness. However, a lot of medical findings have revealed two factors that cause bipolar disorder. They are biological and genetic factors. How does one know they have bipolar disorder?


During the period of manic, a person may experience excessive excitement, restlessness, poor judgment, unusual talkativeness, extreme agitation, decreased the need for sleep and poor concentration.

Symptoms of depressive episodes are irritability, sadness, insomnia, uncontrollable crying, loss of energy, significant loss weight or gain due to a change in eating patterns, indecisiveness and attempting suicide.


A person with the symptoms of bipolar disorder should consult an appropriate doctor or a psychiatrist who will, in turn, put him or her under medication based on their condition.

Dealing with an individual with bipolar disorder is burdensome; patience and soberness are needed from you, in order to cope up with his/her excessive outburst, reckless decisions and unwanted demands. Do not give up on someone who is suffering from the disease since his or her behaviour is attached to their health condition.

The disease can be treated with medications and psychological counselling but if left untreated, it can lead to health, social and other damages, including in relationships. It can also lead to poor performance at work or in school and even suicide or attempting suicide. Other consequences are hopelessness, irritability, severe sadness, aggressiveness, forgetfulness and loss of interests in activities you used to enjoy.

People with such a condition may take longer to become normal again, however, they need to be loved and taken good care of. As a caregiver, give them emotional support and any kind of assistance you can offer for their well-being. The WebMD, an American corporation that publishes news and information pertaining to human health and well-being came up with the following ways to help someone with bipolar disorder:

Learn more about the disease

Conduct research on types, symptoms, causes and treatment to increase your knowledge about the disease. The more information you have about the illness, the better you are equipped in helping the victim.


It is important to devote your time and lend your ears to the stories and challenges of the victim. Listen to their views, complaints and suggestions. Stay calm during the conversations, avoid arguments and topics that may irritate the patient. Assure them, you are always willing to listen to them and that you love and care for them. That builds trust and bond between you and the victim, which are necessary for the good treatment of the illness.


It is also very important to not create a state of hopelessness in the mind of the victim. Let them be assured that their conditions are not permanent. Though at times they may feel hopeless and useless, keep showering them with encouragement; more than that, remind them it is not their fault that they have the illness and assure them, as well, that their future is not hopeless. Also advise them to seek medical assistance, especially, if they are hesitant to see a medical practitioner. Because many bipolar disorder patients are very sensitive about their situation, choose your words appropriately while trying to help them. Avoid words that may sound belittle or disrespectful. Rather, use words that are full of hopes and optimism.

Give them company

As a bipolar disorder patient’s caretaker, try to create time and offer quality company to them as well. During your free time, take them out for a walk or a cup of tea, watch movies and listen to music together. Let them accompany you to some of the events you attend to make that person feel important. As a caregiver, tell them that you will be their friend no matter what and back your promise up with actions too.

Get involved in the treatment

Go along with the person when they are going to see their doctor if need be, help them find good doctors and therapists. Encourage the patient to seek help in case the medication fails to work or causes harmful effects. Try as much as possible to avoid blaming the victim if they show a lack of interest in seeing the doctor or taking their medication. Being “hard” to the patient could be counterproductive.

Do not get irritated easily

The victim may rant or lash out at you, but keep calm. Do not take any comment from him or her personally and avoid arguments by all means. That said, sentences like: “I am not happy with you,”  “Why can’t you just be happy,”  “Stop making excuses”, “You are lazy,” You are stressing everyone with your problems etc.” must be avoided at all costs.

Help where necessary

Volunteer to prepare a meal for him or her, do house chores, laundry, shopping and even pick up his/her kids from school.

Help them reach out to others going through the same condition

A support group is vital for a person with bipolar disorder. Try to get them in touch and bring them together with people with a similar illness so that they can share their experiences. That contact and sharing of experience will inspire each other and make them realize they are not alone in their predicament.

However, as a caregiver, it is equally very important you focus on your life to avoid the risk of burnout and losing your goals and priorities; seek emotional support to cope with the person well, and do not overwhelm yourself while trying to offer help. Instead, define the kind and extent of help, you are in a position to offer.

Last but not least, while offering your help, manage your personal life as well, to avoid stress. Eat well, have enough sleep and exercise regularly. Otherwise, you might end up becoming a patient yourself, in the process of offering your help to a patient.  

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