Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by severe fluctuations in an individual's mood and energy level accompanied by periods of intense mania or hypomania. There are two forms of bipolar disorder, bipolar I and bipolar II.

Bipolar I results in severe manic episodes while bipolar II results in hypomanic episodes. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 1% of the population. The condition affects males and females, but bipolar II is more common with females. Symptoms related to bipolar disorder generally surface during adolescence, early teenage years or early adulthood.

It's often difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can coincide with those of depression. Individuals with a family history of bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Many of those affected have suicidal tendancies, with about 50% of those diagnosed attempting suicide at least once.

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Types of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar I

To receive a diagnosis for bipolar I, an individual must have had at least one manic episode followed by a major depressive episode. A manic episode occurs when an individual’s mood is severely heightened with an extreme increase in motor drive. The manic episode differs in severity and length, but typically lasts at least seven consecutive days.

Psychosis

Bipolar I may result in psychosis, which can occur during a manic or depressive state. Psychosis may be described as a severe detachment from reality, which includes delusional thoughts and hallucinations. If an individual is experiencing psychosis, medical attention should be sought immediately.

Bipolar II

Individual’s diagnosed with bipolar II have experienced at least one hypomanic episode and one major depressive episode. A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode, but the severity and the length tends to be less severe. Typically, a hypomanic episode persists for at least four consecutive days.

Symptoms

If you or a loved one is experiencing severe symptoms related to bipolar disorder, such as self-injury or suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately and consult your doctor.

Bipolar mania

  • Euphoric state or immense irritability
  • Increased level of energy and lack of desire to sleep
  • Excessive speech
  • Inflated self esteem
  • Extreme impulsiveness
  • Desire to engage in reckless acts for instant gratification (ex. shopping sprees, travel, sexual activity, high risk business pursuits or reckless driving)

Bipolar depression

  • Depressed mood associated with low self esteem
  • Decrease in energy
  • Sadness, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • No desire to engage in everyday activities.

Treatment

Professional treatment such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health counselor is often recommended to individuals experiencing a bipolar disorder due to the severity of the symptoms. Medication such as mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants help control symptoms.

Self care, including taking time for yourself, getting physical activity, and eating well can lessen the symptoms for people experiencing mood disorders. Read more about self-care and alternative treatments.

Support Resources

MDAM Peer Support Line: (204) 786-0987 or 1-800-263-1460 (9 a.m. – 9 p.m., Monday – Friday)

MDAM Support Groups: View Support Groups

First Nations & Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1-855-242-3310 (Outside of Province)

Health links: (204) 788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (24 hours/ 7 days a week)

Manitoba Suicide Line: 1 (877) 435-7170, reasontolive.ca

Manitoba Farm & Rural Support Services: www.supportline.ca or 1 (866) 367-3276 (10 a.m. - 9 p.m./ Monday - Friday)

View our comprehensive list of crisis support options throughout Manitoba.