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What is Bipolar Disorder? (Counselling Articles)

Bipolar Disorder is a psychiatric disorder most easily identified by its severe mood swings, or ‘mood disturbances.’ The term ‘Bipolar Disorder’ has replaced the terms ‘manic depression’ and ‘manic depressive disorder,’ which are no longer commonly used.

People diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder have experienced periods or ‘episodes’ of both depression and either mania or hypomania. Unlike simple mood swings, episodes of depression, mania and hypomania can last for several weeks or more, and the frequency of episodes can range from infrequent to frequent.

There are two sub-types of bipolar disorder. Put very simply,

  • Bipolar I Disorder is defined by having a history of Major Depressive Episodes, and at least one Manic Episode.
  • Bipolar II Disorder is defined by having a history of Major Depressive Episodes and at least one Hypomanic Episode, with no history of ever having had a Manic Episode or a Mixed Episode.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder, which is worth mentioning, is defined as a mild form of Bipolar Disorder where symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for either sub-type of Bipolar Disorder.

It is unknown what causes Bipolar Disorder, but it is widely believed that genetic, environmental, and chemical factors can all play a part. Approximately 1% of the population develops bipolar disorder, with the average age of onset occurring in the early twenties for both men and women.

Read more about the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, as well how clients that I counsel for Bipolar Disorder find it helpful to read about the experiences of others diagnosed with the disorder.

Dr. Patricia Turner, Registered Psychologist, Calgary, Alberta

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