Health & Beauty

Everything You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition marked by extreme shifts in mood.

Key symptoms include:

  • episodes of mania, or an extremely elevated mood
  • episodes of depression, or a low mood

Older terms for bipolar disorder include manic depression and bipolar disease.

Bipolar disorder isn’t a rare condition. In fact, the National Institute of Mental HealthTrusted Source says that 2.8 percent of U.S. adults — or about 5 million people — have a bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Although bipolar disorder doesn’t have a cure, many effective treatments are available. These treatment options can help you learn to manage mood episodes, which can improve not only your symptoms, but also your overall quality of life.

Types of bipolar disorder

There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia.

Bipolar I

Bipolar I is defined by the appearance of at least one manic episode. You may experience hypomanic episodes, which are less severe than manic episodes, or major depressive episodes before and after the manic episode. This type of bipolar disorder affects people of all sexes equally.

Bipolar II

People with bipolar II experience one major depressive episode that lasts at least 2 weeks. They also have at least 1 hypomanic episode that lasts about 4 days. According to a 2017 reviewTrusted Source, this type of bipolar disorder may be more common in women.

Bipolar I symptoms

A diagnosis of bipolar I disorder requires:

  • at least 1 episode of mania that lasts at least 1 week
  • symptoms that affect daily function
  • symptoms that don’t relate to another medical or mental health condition or substance use

You could also experience symptoms of psychosis, or both mania and depression (known as mixed features). These symptoms can have more impact on your life. If you do have them, it’s worth reaching out for professional support as soon as possible (more on this later).

While you don’t need to experience episodes of hypomania or depression to receive a bipolar I diagnosis, many people with bipolar I do report these symptoms.

Bipolar II symptoms

A diagnosis of bipolar II requires:

  • at least 1 episode of hypomania that lasts 4 days or longer and involves 3 or more symptoms of hypomania
  • hypomania-related changes in mood and usual function that others can notice, though these may not necessarily affect your daily life
  • at least 1 episode of major depression that lasts 2 weeks or longer
  • at least 1 episode of major depression, involving 5 or more key depression symptoms that have a significant impact on your day-to-day life
  • symptoms that don’t relate to another medical or mental health condition or substance use

Bipolar II can also involve symptoms of psychosis, but only during an episode of depression. You could also experience mixed mood episodes, which means you’ll have symptoms of depression and hypomania at the same time.

With bipolar II, though, you won’t experience mania. If you have a manic episode, you’ll receive a diagnosis of bipolar I.

Bipolar disorder treatment

Several treatments can help you manage bipolar disorder symptoms. These include medications, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Some natural remedies can also have benefits.


Recommended medications may include:

  • mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Lithobid)
  • antipsychotics, such as olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • antidepressant-antipsychotics, such as fluoxetine-olanzapine (Symbyax)
  • benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety medication used for short-term treatment


Recommended therapy approaches may include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps you identify and address unhelpful thoughts and change unwanted patterns of behavior.

Therapy offers a safe space to discuss ways to manage your symptoms. Your therapist can also offer support with:

  • understanding thought patterns
  • reframing distressing emotions
  • learning and practicing more helpful coping strategies

Get tips on finding the right therapist.


Psychoeducation is a therapeutic approach centered around helping you learn about a condition and its treatment. This knowledge can go a long way toward helping you and the supportive people in your life recognize early mood symptoms and manage them more effectively.

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy

Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy focuses on regulating daily habits, such as sleeping, eating, and exercising. Balancing these everyday basics could lead to fewer mood episodes and less severe symptoms.

Online therapy options

Interested in online therapy? Our review of the best teletherapy options can help you find the right fit.

Other options

Other approaches that can help ease symptoms include:

  • electroconvulsive therapy
  • sleep medications
  • supplements
  • acupuncture

Natural remedies for bipolar disorder

Some natural remedies might also help with bipolar disorder symptoms.

You’ll always want to check with your doctor or psychiatrist before trying these remedies, though. In some cases, they could interfere with any medications you’re taking.

The following herbs and supplements may help stabilize your mood and reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder when combined with medication and therapy:

  • Omega-3. Some 2016 researchTrusted Source suggests that taking an omega-3 supplement may help with symptoms of bipolar I. A 2012 studyTrusted Source found this was particularly helpful with depressive symptoms.
  • Rhodiola rosea. A 2013 reviewTrusted Source suggests this plant may help with moderate depression, so it could help treat depression associated with bipolar disorder.
  • S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe is an amino acid supplement that can help easeTrusted Source symptoms of major depression and other mood disorders.
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