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Understanding Bipolar Disorders

Published on: December 7, 2020


It’s difficult enough for the average person to get through the daily hustle and bustle, but for people with bipolar disorder and their loved ones, it’s even more challenging.

You may know that mood swings between depression and mania are the main symptoms of a bipolar condition. But what you may not know is that bipolar disorders are initially misdiagnosed 70 percent of the time, and most manic episodes go unreported. A person with bipolar 1 disorder typically experiences only one or two cycles of depression and mania per year. Unfortunately, many people with bipolar disorder think they can get through their cycles themselves, while their personal and work lives are likely to suffer.

Types of Bipolar Disorders

A big reason bipolar conditions may be misdiagnosed is that they can vary so much. Did you know there are several different types of bipolar diagnoses? Bipolar 1 disorder is characterized by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, with or without major depressive episodes. A person with bipolar 2 disorder experiences less severe and shorter periods of hypomania but with major depression. Cyclothymic disorder is similar with a long history of less severe hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms. Other bipolar conditions can result from exposure or withdrawal from a recreational drug or medication, and from other medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism. 

Symptoms You May Notice

If you or a loved one has bipolar symptoms, it’s important to get the right diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms you may notice during a manic episode may include the person having a flight of new ideas, a decreased need for sleep, being more talkative than normal, inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, or excessive involvement in high-risk activities (shopping sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments).

Besides the manic episodes, periods of major depression are also likely. Individuals suffering from bipolar disorder may also tend to isolate themselves, especially during bouts of depression. Anxiety and alcohol dependence are frequently in the picture, too.

How Family Members Can Help

Family members can help a person with bipolar disorder by first recognizing the early signs of the condition and encouraging their loved one to get treatment.

A person with bipolar disorder requires extra patience, understanding, and a supportive environment from family members, who may need their own emotional support to deal with their loved one’s severe moods.

A person with bipolar disorder requires extra patience, understanding, and a supportive environment from family members, who may need their own emotional support to deal with their loved one’s severe moods.


A person with bipolar disorder can get better and lead a more stable life.  A combination of medication and psychotherapy has shown to be most effective in treating bipolar and other mood disorders. Family-focused therapy, providing education and support to family members, can also be part of a successful treatment plan. (For more treatment details, visit the Bipolar Disorders section in our Mental Health Library.)

Harmony United Psychiatric Care has mental health professionals skilled and experienced in treating bipolar disorders. To schedule an in-person or telepsychiatry visit, call  (800) 457-4573 or request an appointment online. 

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