“Oh, he’s just being bipolar,” or “She’s just acting all bipolar.” Statements like these tend to blur the definition of what is, in reality, a very serious mental health issue that affects nearly 3% of the population in the United States, with 83% of those quite severely.
Dr. Diana Ghelber and the experienced mental health team here at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry want to take this opportunity to take a closer look at what bipolar disorder is, and what it isn’t.
Here, we present three salient points about bipolar disorder.
The first thing to understand about bipolar disorder is that it isn’t just one neat and tidy diagnosis. Bipolar disorder can manifest itself in different ways, including these common subtypes:
This type includes manic episodes that last more than a week or the person has severe enough manic symptoms that they require hospitalization. These episodes are often followed by depressive periods that can last for two weeks or more.
Making matters more complicated, a person can have manic and depressive symptoms at the same time or rapidly cycle through the two episodes.
A person with bipolar II follows the patterns of bipolar I, but the symptoms are less severe.
A person who cycles through manic and depressive episodes, but neither qualifies for clinical depression or hypomania.
There are many more ways in which bipolar disorder can present itself — variations of the above — which can make diagnosing the issue tricky under the best of circumstances.
The average age of onset of bipolar disorder is 25. It can, of course, develop earlier or later, but it’s rarely seen in children and, if the diagnosis comes later in life, it’s likely that the problem was missed earlier on.
Of those who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, between 80% and 90% have a family history of the same mental health illness or of depression. While we’re still not sure what causes bipolar disorder, we believe that an imbalance in brain chemicals plays a large role. It follows that the imbalance may be inherited as opposed to environmental, though we haven't ruled out environmental causes.
This also doesn't mean that someone with bipolar disorder will pass it on to their children. There are plenty of people who have a direct family history of bipolar disorder who aren’t affected by the disease. In fact, one study of identical twins found that one twin may have the issue while the other does not.
If you’d like to learn more about bipolar disorder or seek expert diagnosis and treatment for the issue, please contact us at the Institute for Advanced Psychiatry in Granbury or Fort Worth, Texas, to set up a consultation.