How Common Is Bipolar Disorder?

How Common Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic depression or manic-depressive disorder, is a serious mental health condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood and behavior. People with bipolar disorder may experience periods of extreme happiness and high energy, known as manic episodes, followed by periods of extreme sadness and hopelessness, known as depressive episodes.

If left untreated, bipolar disorder can have serious consequences, including substance abuse, relationship issues, job loss, and even suicide. It is important for individuals with bipolar disorder to receive proper treatment in order to manage their symptoms and prevent these complications. Treatment options may include medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are four types of bipolar disorder, distinguished by the severity and duration of manic and depressive episodes:

Bipolar I Disorder

This is the most severe type of bipolar disorder, characterized by manic episodes that last for at least seven days (or are so intense that hospitalization is necessary) and depressive episodes that last for two or more weeks.

Bipolar II Disorder

This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by less severe manic episodes (hypomania) and depressive episodes than can last several weeks.

Cyclothymic Disorder (or Cyclothymia)

This is a milder form of bipolar disorder, characterized by persistent depressive and hypomanic episodes that go on for over two years. Cyclothymia symptoms are not severe enough to be classified as either bipolar I or II disorder.

Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar Disorder

This category refers to situations where a person experiences symptoms bearing similarities to bipolar disorder but do not meet the criteria for the other types of bipolar disorder.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

The cause of bipolar disorder is not fully understood but is thought to be a combination of genetic and biological factors.


Research shows that certain genes or gene variations can make a person more vulnerable to developing bipolar disorder. This explains why bipolar disorder seems to run in families.

Biological Factors

Biological factors, such as changes in brain structure, chemistry, and functioning, may also be involved in the development of bipolar disorder. Brain imaging studies show that people with bipolar disorder have subtle changes in their brain structure, which experts believe may be related to the development of the condition.

Risk Factors for Bipolar Disorder

Several factors have been linked to an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder, including:

Family history: Having a parent or close relative with bipolar disorder increases your chance of developing the condition.

Extreme stress: Experiencing trauma or major stressors (such as the death of a loved one or divorce) can trigger the onset of bipolar disorder.

Substance abuse: People who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to develop bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder a person has and the episode they are experiencing.
Symptoms of Mania:

  • Feel overexcited or “high”
  • Increased energy and activity levels
  • Excessive talking or talking very fast
  • Racing thoughts
  • Impulsiveness and risky behavior
  • Grandiose thinking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Changes in appetite
  • Insomnia (going for long periods without sleep)

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Persistent sadness or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Hopelessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Prevalence of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a relatively common mental illness that typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood, with the average age of onset being 25 years. However, it is not uncommon for younger children to be diagnosed with the condition.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 4.4 percent of American adults struggle with bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. This translates to about 11.4 million people. Additionally, around 2.9 percent of adolescents (between 13 and 18 years old) also live with bipolar disorder.

The rate of serious impairment among adults and adolescents diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the U.S. is estimated to be over 80 percent. This makes the condition one of the leading causes of disability in the country.

The Bottom Line

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health condition that requires specialized treatment in order to effectively manage its symptoms. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is important to seek the help of a qualified mental healthcare provider. Our healthcare providers are equipped to handle any necessary consultations and can provide a proper diagnosis and develop a treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms and lead a productive life.

With the right support, most individuals with bipolar disorder can effectively manage their condition and lead fulfilling lives.

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