Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition where an individual experiences severe mood swings, usually in the form of a high (mania) and a low (depression).
These highs and lows are much more extreme than the standard ups and downs that most people experience in their lives. They can be as rare as once a year, or as regular as monthly, weekly or even daily.
In this article, we’re going to break down how someone is diagnosed for this mental health disorder, as well as the predominant underlying causes that can lead to it.
What causes bipolar disorder?
When it comes to what causes bipolar disorder, there is no one singular cause, but medical professionals currently believe several specific factors can play a role in the development of this mental health condition.
To give you a well-rounded understanding of these factors, we’re going to break each one down to give you a more in-depth look.
Chronic mental stress plays a large role in the activation of bipolar disorder. Those who have or continue to experience chronic stress, depression and anxiety, have both their brain and mind under constant strain. When this happens long enough it can alter their brain chemistry, cause imbalances and, in severe cases, lead to bipolar disorder.
In other words, just because one of your family members might have bipolar disorder, doesn’t mean you will automatically develop the condition as well.
Diagnosis of bipolar disorder
If someone is exhibiting symptoms of bipolar disorder, they’ll have to be formally diagnosed by a mental health professional, most often, a psychiatrist.
There are two standard phases to diagnosing bipolar disorder, the physical exam and psychiatric assessment. A physical exam in this context would typically consist of a body scan, a review of your overall physical health, and lab testing (such as for blood and hormones). Sometimes there may be additional tests that are conducted, but it’s based entirely on your unique situation.
A psychiatric assessment means you will speak with a mental health professional (oftentimes, a psychiatrist) about your feelings, thoughts and behavioral patterns. They may ask you to fill out some sort of questionnaire or self-assessment test to get to know you more thoroughly. In certain cases, the mental health professional may request permission to speak with your parents or significant other.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary in extremity per person, but there are some common signs that someone struggling with bipolar disorder might experience.