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Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Like depression, Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that affects our mood. People with bipolar disorder experience periods of depression and periods of mania. Depression is is when you feel severe and persistent despair over a long period of time, affecting your mental and physical health, relationships, work and personal goals. Mania, on the other hand, gives people an unusually high mood (uncharacteristic for the individual experiencing mania). Hyperactivity, racing thoughts, unrealistic confidence, a grandiose sense of self, and feeling powerful are all characteristics of mania. Because of these characteristics, mania often prompts a person to engage in risky behaviour.

In bipolar disorder, people can experience periods of wellness between depressive and manic episodes. Typically, the episodes last over a period of time, though sometimes the episodes change quickly. In either case, bipolar disorder makes it difficult for a person to continue with normal daily functions, and can negatively impact their relationships, finances, work, and physical health.

Scientists agree that there is no single cause of bipolar disorder. Likely, bipolar disorder is caused by a variety of factors including one’s genetics, brain structure, and family history. In addition, it can be challenges to diagnose bipolar disorder because aspects of the disorder resemble other illnesses, such as psychosis, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and substance abuse. And sometimes, these and other mental health challenges are occurring at the same time as bipolar disorder.


Bipolar disorder is characterized by episodes of depression and episodes of mania.

Depressive episodes may be characterized by:

  • Low energy
  • Feeling sad, emotionally low, hopeless
  • Decreased activity levels
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Lack of enjoyment in life
  • Excessive worry
  • Difficulty concentrating and focusing
  • Memory challenges
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Thinking of death or suicide

Manic episodes may be characterized by:

  • High levels of energy
  • Feeling emotionally high, happy
  • Increased activity levels
  • Trouble sleeping
  • More active than usual
  • Talking faster than usual
  • Become easily agitated or irritable
  • Fast thoughts
  • Risky behaviour

It is important to note that every person may present uniquely. Sometimes a person may have signs of both a depressive and manic episode at the same time. It is important that if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms that you seek support from a physician.


With the proper treatment and support, people with bipolar disorder may be able to control episodes of depression and mania. If you are experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, it may be time to talk to your physician. A combination of medication and psychological counselling/psychotherapy have been an effective combination in treating bipolar disorder.

Dalton Associates can help you find the right mental health professional with expertise in treating bipolar disorder, who can provide you with support and education to reduce symptoms, gain control, and enjoy life.


National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Bipolar disorder.
Retrieved from

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2016). Depression and bipolar disorder.
Retrieved from

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