Understanding Bipolar Disorder: 6 Important Facts You Need to Know

A diagnosis of bipolar disorder or manic depression can be overwhelming and confusing. However, education is the first step to effectively managing this treatable condition. Remember that bipolar disorder is a complex illness, but with the right treatment and support, people with bipolar disorder can live full and productive lives.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder: 6 Important Facts You Need to Know

To help ease fears and uncertainties, here are six important facts about bipolar disorder:

Bipolar disorder affects many people: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an estimated 2.3 million adults, or 1.2 percent of the population, suffer from bipolar disorder in a given year.

Bipolar disorder has many possible causes: While there is no single cause of bipolar disorder, there is evidence that several factors contribute to its development. A genetic predisposition plays a role, as shown by studies of familial occurrence. Other factors may include traumatic life events, chronic illness, alcoholism, and substance abuse.

Bipolar disorder has a variety of symptoms: The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe mood swings, ranging from manic episodes characterized by extreme euphoria, increased energy, irritability and decreased need for sleep, to depressive episodes characterized by feelings of despair, hopelessness, guilt and sometimes suicidal thoughts. Normal moods may occur between these episodes.

Bipolar disorder affects both sexes and all ages: Bipolar disorder does not differentiate by gender or age. It affects both men and women as well as children and adolescents, although diagnosis can be more difficult in young people. A significant number of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder have at least one family member with the condition, and children of affected parents are at higher risk of developing it themselves.

Effective treatments are available for bipolar disorder: Mood-stabilizing medications are commonly used to treat bipolar disorder and regulate mood swings. It is important to recognize that bipolar disorder requires ongoing treatment throughout a person’s life. In addition to medication, psychotherapy plays an important role in understanding the illness, developing coping strategies, and managing life events and stressors that can trigger manic or depressive episodes.

Bipolar disorder is not curable, but it is manageable: While there is currently no cure for bipolar disorder, the condition can be effectively managed with the right treatment and support. By maintaining a close relationship with a mental health professional, taking prescribed medications and following treatment plans, people with bipolar disorder can lead productive and fulfilling lives.

It is important to educate yourself and seek support if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Organizations such as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) offer valuable resources, education, counseling and support. Educating yourself about bipolar disorder is an important step in reducing the uncertainty and anxiety associated with a diagnosis.