Bi-polar is defined as:
There are 4 possible subtypes of Bi-polar
Bi-polar 1 is defined as having a manic episode. A manic episode is a period of seven or more days or any period of time if admission to hospital is required - of unusually and continuously effusive and open elated or irritable mood, where the mood is not caused by drugs/medication or a medical illness, and is causing obvious difficulties at work or in social relationships and activities, or requires admission to hospital to protect the person or others, or the person is suffering from psychosis. (link)
Bi-polar 2 is defined as having a hypomanic episode and at least one major depressive episode. A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode as described above, but is less severe. A hypomanic episode does not require hospitalization to protect the person or others but still contains a period of seven or more days of unusually and continuously effusive and open elated or irritable mood, where the mood is not caused by drugs/medication or a medical illness, and is causing obvious difficulties at work or in social relationships and activities
A major depressive episode is Defined as:
Cyclothymia is defined as having alternating states between hypomania and depression, where the depression does not meet the requirements for a major depressive episode
Bi-polar NOS is defined as having experienced a manic or hypomanic episode without meeting other criteria for a bi-polar diagnosis.
Bi-polar is one of the most commonly misdiagnosed disorders in mental health. The idea that individuals cycle from depression to elation is easily misunderstood. The key mistake that is made is that with bi-polar the cycling from depressed to elation is not dependant on external events. For example, a bi-polar person will cycle from manic to depressed without any events happening, and events that do happen in their lives do not speed up or slow down their symptoms.
If someone gets angry at something that has happened, and then later that day is happy doing something fun, it can seem like they swung from depressed to manic. However, their mood changes were due to events such as something that made them angry and then a fun activity.
Someone who had bi-polar will get severely depressed, and it lasts for at least a week but usually for weeks to months at a time. During this time, they are in a constant state of depression, regardless of what is going on in their lives; nothing can bring them out of it, even for a short period of time.
On the other hand, their manic periods are the same. They are not brought on by an event, or stopped by an event. The individual will fall into a manic period for weeks up to months or a year and nothing that happens to them or in their life will change it.
An individual who can go from depressed to “super happy” all in one day, or even in a few days, does not have a bi-polar disorder
Bi-polar looks different depending on the severity of the symptoms. Most bi-polar diagnoses that are made are for bi-polar 2, with bi-polar 1 being much more rare. Bi-polar 1 is so severe that the individual will have periods of such agitation, or such reckless and seemingly foolish behavior that they put themselves or those around them in danger.
It is not completely clear what causes bi-polar, but genetics seem to have a large role. The biggest factor for development of this disorder is if a close relative has also been diagnosed. Other factors that are believed to play a role are past drug and alcohol use, and your environment.
A combination of medications and psychotherapy are the primary sources of treatment for long term control of symptoms. Psychotherapy alone is not enough to control the ups and downs of bi-polar, and as such, it is strongly recommended to see your physician about a mood stabilizer. A mood stabilizer medication is one that will help to level out the volatile swings with bi-polar.
Self Help (link), our guide program (link), or help from a local therapist is important to help understand how to cope with symptoms and to help educate the individual on best practices for dealing with bipolar.