Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder causes unusual changes in mood and behavior. While everyone has natural highs and lows, with bipolar disorder the highs and lows are extreme, impacting folks’ ability to function in their day-to-day lives through shifts in mood, energy levels, sleeping and eating, and the ability to think clearly. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a person must have experienced mania or hypomania (extreme highs) in addition to depression. In between episodes, people with bipolar disorder can be completely symptom-free. Like all mental illnesses, bipolar disorder shows up differently for each person. For example, some people could be in either a manic and/or depressive state almost all the time, whereas for others it could be years between episodes. Bipolar disorder is treatable.

Each person is unique, and should explore their options and select for themselves the most effective coping mechanisms for dealing with bipolar disorder. That being said, many people have found successful treatment for bipolar through things like psychotherapy, medication, exercise, spiritual and indigenous approaches to healing, and/or self-care techniques such as sticking to concrete daily routines or keeping a journal to track symptoms.

At least half of all cases of bipolar disorder start before age 25

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

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Approximately 20% of adolescents with major depression develop bipolar within five years of the onset of depression

Canadian Mental Health Association


A person with bipolar disorder might think things like this when they’re in a manic state:

  • Mania:
    • “I can do ANYTHING! I am ALL POWERFUL!”
    • “I will never run out of energy!”
    • “I have it all figured out, and nothing bad can happen!”
    • “I can think through

A person with bipolar disorder might think things like this when they’re in a depressed state:

  • Depression:
    • “I am having so much trouble getting out of bed – and not just because I’m tired… I just don’t see the point”
    • “Activities that I used to enjoy feel meaningless to me.”
    • “I just don’t think I have the energy to interact with people anymore.”


A person with bipolar disorder might feel:

  • Mania
    • Jumpy, wired
    • Ecstatic, elated
    • Endless energy
    • Irritable, agitated
  • Depression
    • Hopeless, down, sad
    • Sleep too much, or sleep too little
    • Numb, can’t enjoy anything
    • Hungry all the time, or can’t eat at all
    • Unable to carry out regular, daily tasks

An equal number of men and women develop bipolar illness and it is found in all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Additional Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Educational resources and support offering informational brochures, podcasts and wellness tools and checklists. Provides links to peer support groups and many personal stories. Includes an Advocacy Center and volunteer opportunities. Go to site
International Bipolar Foundation Dedicated to eradicating the stigma of bipolar disorder through public education and improving services. They maintain a solid focus on youth with a number of bloggers who are young adults, as well as programs such as high school essay contests for stigma reduction. Continually host events and webinars. Go to site Providing “Hope and Harmony” for people with bipolar disorder. Includes featured articles in this online version of BP Magazine offering encouraging blog posts from those living with bipolar disorder, as well as a forum, blog, and information for bipolar disorder and children. Go to site
Mental Health America Leading nonprofit providing mental health support, recovery and advocacy. Have a number of resources specific to school and workplace wellness and extensive policy and advocacy information. Their prevention campaign, B4Stage4 encourages mental health screenings and statistics to change the way we think about mental health.  Go to site
National Institute of Mental Health Extensive information and research transforming the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses for prevention, recovery, and cure. Offers health information specific to age and gender. Go to site
SAMHSA: Understanding Bipolar Disorder for Young Adults + Caregiver For young adults: This sheet provides helpful facts on living with bipolar-compulsive disorder, discusses causes and treatment approaches, and provides a list of helpful resources. For Caregivers: Provides a general overview of obsessive-compulsive disorder in youth and young adults, gives guidance on how to provide support, highlights recommended treatment approaches. Includes a list of helpful resources. Go to site
Crisis Text Line Crisis Text Line is a United States not-for-profit organization providing free crisis intervention via SMS message. The organization's services are available 24 hours a day every day, throughout the US by texting 741741. Go to site

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