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What does Bipolar really mean?

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Posted By Alex Perez

You may have heard of the mental health condition: Bipolar disorder.

Or maybe you’ve heard someone say, “Oh, she’s bipolar” to describe someone who has been having mood swings. 

However, being bipolar is more than just an adjective for someone who seems happy one minute and upset the next.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that should not be taken lightly.

Literally, the word “bipolar” has two parts. The prefix “bi-” means two and the word “polar” refers to extreme ends of a range that are opposite in nature.

Someone with bipolar disorder experiences strong emotions in the range of extreme happiness to extreme sadness. The episodes of happiness are called “Manic” and the episodes of intense sadness are called “depression.”

It is normal to feel sad sometimes and happy other times. However, someone who is bipolar experiences intense symptoms that interrupt their daily life and can be detrimental to healthy interpersonal relationships. People with bipolar disorder have a hard time regulating their emotions during each episode and cannot simply “be positive” during depression episodes or “calm down” during manic episodes.

What are Manic episodes like in Bipolar disorder?

Manic episodes are when someone with bipolar disorder experiences extreme happiness.

Some symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • Feeling invincible
  • Inflated ego and confidence
  • Restlessness  or easily distracted
  • Impulsive behavior- such as spending large amount of money, gambling excessively, or hypersexuality
  • Excessively Talkative
  • Psychosis
  • Detached from reality

What are Depressive episodes like in Bipolar disorder?

Depressive episodes are when someone with bipolar disorder feels extreme sadness.

Symptoms for someone with bipolar disorder would include:

  • Feeling hopeless
  • Increase in sleep and fatigue
  • Thoughts of self harm
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Wanting isolation
  • Avoiding friends and family

Levels of Bipolar Disorder

There are several categories of bipolar disorder depending on:

  • How often one experiences manic and depressive episodes.
  • How long the episodes occur
  • The intensity of each episode

Mental health professionals make a diagnosis based on how often someone experiences manic or depressive episodes over a period of time, such as a year, or how intense the manic episodes are compared to one’s depression.

Natural Treatments of Bipolar Disorder

bipolar natural treatments

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes and psychotherapy. Intense intervention is needed for people with severe bipolar disorder so that impulsive feelings are not acted upon during manic episodes and self-harm behaviors are not done during depressive episodes.

Therapy for people with bipolar disorder can include family psychoeducation and family-focused therapy. Family is an important support system for people with bipolar disorder and having correct psychoeducation can help those with bipolar manage symptoms more successfully.

Treatments can also include group therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy to help people with bipolar find support and understand their cognitive processes.

The meaning of Bipolar

“Being Bipolar” is more than just when someone is being moody, irritable, or upset for a short period of time. Though you may hear the term used lightly, the word bipolar actually means someone who experiences episodes of manic and depression. It is a serious mental health condition and there is help for those who suffer from bipolar disorder.


Helpguide.org: Bipolar Disorder, Signs and Symptoms

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