Written By :

December 13, 2022


‘The weather is so bipolar today!’

Truth be told no, the weather is not bipolar. Neither is your friend who can’t decide what to wear or the guy you’re in a situationship with who’s giving you mixed signals.

So what is really bipolar disorder? Read this article to discover everything you need to know about what bipolar disorder really is, its types, causes, treatments as well as tips regarding these disorders.

Mood disorders overview

Mood disorders are severe psychological disorders characterized primarily by abnormal mood, or extremes of emotion.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Everyone feels sad from time to time. Failing an exam, losing someone you love or breaking up with a romantic partner are all examples of events that can cause you to experience a depressed mood. It is important to notice the difference between the normal feeling of sadness that is part of everyone’s lives and symptoms of depressive episodes of mood disorders.

Normal sadness Symptoms for depressive episodes
Induced by specific causes: relationship, family issues or losses
Much more intense and for a long period of time
Temporary and does not affect your functions of daily life
Affects your relationships and your functionality (at school, work...)
More about being in a bad mood. Common misconception: 'Don't talk to me I'm depressed today'
Accompanied with physical symptoms: lack of appetite, change in sleep patterns...

Two key moods

Two key moods characterize mood disorders: depression and mania.

Depression  Mania
Induced by specific causes: relationship, family issues or losses
Much more intense and for a long period of time
Temporary and does not affect your functions of daily life
Affects your relationships and your functionality (at school, work...)
More about being in a bad mood. Common misconception: 'Don't talk to me I'm depressed today'
Accompanied with physical symptoms: lack of appetite, change in sleep patterns...

There are two types of mood disorders:

So, what are bipolar disorders?

To sum it up, bipolar disorders are psychological disorders that cause extreme shift in mood, that include emotional highs (mania) and lows (depression). Episodes tend to last on average 3-4 months.

Recent studies show that in the Arab world, and in all of the Arab countries, 1-5% of the population is diagnosed with a bipolar disorder, causing patients a great deal of distress and functional impairment. In fact, it’s also as prevalent in Western countries, and many celebrities have opened up about struggling with this disorder.

Celebrities struggling/ who have struggled with a bipolar disorder:

Types of bipolar disorders

Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II

The difference between bipolar I and II is quite simple:

If you are diagnosed with Bipolar I, you will experience a full manic episode, while if you have bipolar II, you will only experience a hypomanic episode (less severe than a manic episode).

If you have bipolar I you may not experience a major depressive episode, however if you have bipolar II you will.

Cyclothymic disorder

If you have cyclothymic disorder, you experience mood swings that are more intense than normal, but less than full-blown bipolar disorders. If you have been diagnosed with cyclothymic disorder, you might:

To summarize:

Bipolar I Bipolar II Cyclothymic disorder
At least one manic episode and may not have a major depressive episode
A major depressive episode (min. 2 weeks) with at least one hypomanic episode
Hypomania and mild depression
Manic episodes can be so extreme you might need hospitalization
Can be misdiagnosed as depression because hypomanic episodes are not that clear
'Ups and Downs' that are not as intense as in Bipolar

Other symptoms of bipolar disorders

You can distinguish three types of symptoms for bipolar disorders:

Behavioral symptoms

Mental symptoms

Physical symptoms

Risk for suicide

Unfortunately, bipolar disorders have the highest rates of suicide in mental disorders. Research shows that someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder is 20 to 30% more likely to commit suicide than the general population. That’s why symptoms of patients should always be monitored, and early diagnosis and treatment have found to decrease this risk (more about treatments later).

Causal factors of bipolar disorders

In bipolar disorders, just like any psychological disorder, you can’t talk about cause and consequence. Which means, you cannot know for sure what caused the disorder, rather you can talk about causal factors, that are factors which increase someone’s possibility of diagnosing with the disorder.

Biological factors


Genetics clearly play a role in diagnosing bipolar disorders: studies found that the general population has a 1% risk of having a bipolar disorder, however 8 to 10 percent of the first-degree relatives of a person with a bipolar illness can be expected to have a bipolar disorder.


Norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are all involved in regulating our mood states. Disturbance in those neurotransmitters play a role in bipolar disorders. Recent studies have found in bipolar patients:

Biological Rythms

There's considerable evidence regarding disturbances in biological rhythms such as circadian rhythms that are related to the sleeping patterns: patients of bipolar disorder tend to stay awake in manic episodes and oversleep in depressive episodes.

Psychological factors

Although biological factors play a prominent role in the onset of a bipolar disorder, psychosocial factors have also been found to be involved.


Life stressors play a role in triggering bipolar disorders. Studies found that both childhood stressors (e.g. physical, emotional or sexual abuse), or recent life stressors (e.g. financial problems, issues in friendships or relationships) increase the likelihood of developing a bipolar disorder, and the probabilities of relapse.

Personality Variables

Some personality variables can be causal factors. For example people with high levels of achievement-striving are more at risk of experiencing manic episodes.

Congnitive Styles

Can also play a role. Students with a pessimistic attribution style (for example you get a high grade at an exam and attribute the success to an external factor like luck instead of the internal factor of your personal competence) who had also experienced negative life events showed an increase in both manic and depressive symptoms.


There are various types of treatment for bipolar disorder that will help you learn how to cope with the depressive and manic episodes, so that you can function well, minimize your sufferings and live a normal and happy life.


Various medications are used to treat bipolar disorders. Your psychiatrist will prescribe you medications based on your specific symptoms and conveniences.


They're prescribed to manage the depressive episodes, fix the chemical imbalances of the brain. For example, serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be prescribed to increase the low serotonin levels (mentioned before). However, an antidepressant can sometimes trigger a manic episode, consequently, it's usually prescribed along with a mood stabilizer or an antipsychotic.

Mood stabilizers

Like lithium (Lithobid) are often used to avoid shifting between depressive and manic episodes.


Are used if symptoms of depression and mania persist despite taking antidepressants and mood stabilizers, specifically if you're showing signs of psychosis (hallucinations and delusions).

Anti-anxiety medication

Like benzodiazepines are usually used on a short-term basis to help with anxiety or improve sleep.

Finding the right medication

Keep in mind that finding the medication that suits you requires time, and multiple tries and fails. If one doesn’t work well for you, there are various others for you to try. Consequently, you need to be patient, since some medications take many months to show full effect. 

Side effects

You might have to deal with various side effects while trying different drugs. Some examples are:

It’s important to keep your doctor in touch with your side effects, if they are unbearable this might mean that the medication is not right for you. However, keep in mind to NEVER stop taking a medication without consulting your psychiatrist. You might experience withdrawal effects, or have your symptoms worsen: you may become very depressed, even suicidal, or go into a manic episode. If you think that a change must be made, always consult your doctor.

SIDE NOTE: some medications can

Psychotherapy is a vital part of the treatment of bipolar disorders. Although medication might be necessary to treat the symptoms, psychotherapy treats what is thought to be the roots of the problem, consequently preventing relapses after the symptoms have been cured, new studies have found.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Recent evidence suggests that CBT may be quite useful, in combination with medication, in the treatment of bipolar disorder. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that consists on recognizing triggers for the disorder and underlying unhealthy thinking patterns and learning to change them. It will also help you understand emotions and learn effective strategies to manage stress and cope with upsetting situations.

Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

This approach will help you stabilize daily social rhythms, that can otherwise precipitate bipolar episodes: creating a routine will likely help you stabilize your mood. It consists on recognizing the effect of interpersonal events on your social and circadian rhythms, and learn how to regulate those rhythms like sleeping, waking and mealtimes.

Family and marital therapy

Research found relapse in bipolar disorders to be correlated with certain negative aspects of family life. That's why, family interventions that are directed at reducing the level of expressed emotion or hostility, and at increasing the family's information about how to cope with the disorder, have been found to be very useful in preventing relapse.
Furthermore, marital discord has shown to play a role in depressive episodes, so marital therapy (focusing on your marital issues rather than on your symptoms only), shows to be as effective as cognitive therapy in reducing your depressive symptoms.

How to support someone with a Bipolar Disorder

Best jobs for people with a Bipolar Disorder

If you have a bipolar disorder, it doesn’t mean you can’t function just as well, and sometimes better than a normal person! The key is in knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and choosing your job accordingly. Two important points here is to look up for a job in a quite and peaceful environment. Also, as mentioned before, people who have bipolar are usually characterized with more creativity, you can discover what you’re talented in, and passionate about in the artistic fields.

Examples of jobs including a quite environment:

Best jobs for people with a Bipolar Disorder

An important advise is to avoid careers that are more stressful (like teaching for example), and long shifts or crowded places that might trigger you. However, keep in mind that these are general advices, the key still remains in finding what’s convenient for YOU.


Biological and psychological causal factors might have shown to trigger the extremes changes in mood in bipolar disorders. Although unfortunately, this disorder is not curable, various treatments are now available to cure or decrease the symptoms and be able to function well.
You just read about how bipolar disorders are not just changes in mood, not knowing what to wear or acting weird in a relationship. They are rather mental and health issues that should be taken seriously. At the same time, having a bipolar disorder won’t stop you from succeeding and living a happy life, just like other celebrities already did! Just be mindful of your symptoms, carry on with your treatment and never be afraid to ask questions or seek professional help.

Written By :

December 13, 2022