Bipolar Disorder in simple terms

Bipolar Disorder in simple terms

Bipolar Disorder affects an individual’s mental and physical well-being, negatively impacting one’s overall life. While people are aware of the existence of the Disorder, we dig more into the topic.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) describes Bipolar Disorder as a physical illness marked by extreme mood, energy, and behaviour changes.

It is for this reason, SADAG claims that doctors classify it as a mood disorder. In addition, Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental illness involving episodes of severe mania and depression. “The person’s mood usually swings from overly “high” and irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between,” states SADAG.

This disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood, continuing throughout life.

Sadly, SADAG explains it is not always recognised as an illness, and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years. According to Mediclinic, it is vital to highlight that Bipolar Disorder encompasses bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder.

In an educational piece published by Healthy Life, it is explained that while the depressive episodes are parallel in bipolar 1 and bipolar 2 disorder, the difference sits in the severity of each variant’s manic episodes caused by each variant. It is essential to point out that bipolar 2 causes hypomania; this is a less extreme form of mania which sees the patient being highly functional during hypomania episodes.

Furthermore, it must be highlighted that Bipolar Disorder is a chronic illness. Due to this, it usually requires long-term management. SADAG emphasises, effective treatments are available and that they can significantly alleviate the suffering caused by the Disorder.

The medication used by the patients will depend on their specific symptoms, needs, and how well they respond to the treatment. Counselling with a trained mental health professional can also assist a person in the process.

While treatment is available for bipolar, what causes this disorder? 

SADAG explains, “The exact cause of manic depression is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of biochemical, genetic and psychological factors.”


SADAG points out that research has shown that this Disorder is connected with a chemical imbalance in the brain, corrected with appropriated medication.


According to the mental health organisation, Bipolar Disorder tends to run in families. The organisation elaborates on the matter, “Researchers have identified a number of genes that may be linked to the disorder, suggesting that several different biochemicals problems may occur in bipolar disorder (just as there are different kinds of arthritis).”  

Psychological Stress

SADAG adds that genetically susceptible people may have a faulty “switch-off” point – emotional excitement may keep escalating into mania, while setbacks may worsen into a profound depression.

Due to the impact bipolar can have on an individual’s life, if you believe you or a loved one is showcasing symptoms, please seek help by either visiting your local GP or psychiatrist for guidance on the steps forward.

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