Exploring Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that will affect an estimated 4.4% of U.S. adults in their lifetime. Understanding the complexities surrounding this disorder is critical for both those diagnosed as well as their loved ones. Below, we’re diving into the signs, symptoms, and avenues of support for bipolar disorder.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic-depressive illness, is characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, alternating between periods of heightened euphoria (mania) and deep lows (depression).

Periods of mania can feel energized, elated, or irritable, while periods of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or loss of interest in things one previously loved. For many people, these mood and energy swings can severely disrupt daily functioning.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three primary types of bipolar disorder, characterized by distinct patterns of mood swings:

Bipolar I Disorder

Bipolar I disorder is marked by intense manic episodes lasting at least seven days or requiring hospitalization, along with periods of depression. Some people may experience mixed episodes, with symptoms of both mania and depression occurring simultaneously.


The symptoms of manic episodes include:

  • Elevated mood
  • A surplus of energy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Insomnia or a decreased need for sleep
  • Inflated sense of self-esteem
  • Risky behavior
  • Impaired judgment
  • Heightened impulsivity
  • Agitation or irritability

Alternatively, the symptoms of depressive episodes include:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Fatigue
  • Fluctuations in weight or appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide


Treatment for bipolar I disorder typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and support, including:

  • Mood Stabilizers
    • Lithium is typically the first-line treatment for Bipolar I Disorder, helping to stabilize mood and reduce the frequency and severity of manic episodes.
    • Anticonvulsants like valproate (Depakote), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and lamotrigine (Lamictal) can help control mood swings and prevent manic episodes.
  • Antipsychotics
    • Medications like quetiapine (Seroquel), olanzapine (Zyprexa), risperidone (Risperdal), and aripiprazole (Abilify) can be effective in managing acute manic or mixed episodes.
  • Antidepressants
    • Antidepressants such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), or escitalopram (Lexapro) are often prescribed alongside a mood stabilizer to manage the symptoms of depression.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy can help individuals cope with mood swings, manage stress, and improve relationships.

Lifestyle Changes

Establishing a regular routine, along with healthy eating and sleeping patterns, can promote mood stability and decrease the frequency and intensity of episodes. It’s also important to abstain from alcohol and recreational drugs, as they can worsen symptoms.

Bipolar II Disorder

Individuals with bipolar II disorder will experience a pattern of alternating depressive and hypomanic episodes, which are less severe than traditional manic episodes. While sufferers may experience increased energy, creativity, and productivity during these episodes, it won’t typically affect “normal” daily functioning or require hospitalization.


The symptoms of bipolar II disorder are similar to those of bipolar I disorder. The primary differences? Manic episodes aren’t usually as severe, and depressive episodes are typically much longer than those experienced with bipolar I disorder.


The treatment for bipolar II disorder is similar to that for bipolar I disorder. The biggest difference is in the medications prescribed. In the case of bipolar II disorder, antipsychotics aren’t as commonly prescribed, as the symptoms of hypomania are less severe than the manic episodes experienced with bipolar I disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Cyclothymic disorder is a more rare form of bipolar disorder, with mood fluctuations that are less severe and shorter in duration compared to those seen in bipolar I or II disorder. People with cyclothymic may experience episodes of hypomania and mild depression for at least two years. These changes in mood can occur quickly and at any time. While sufferers may experience periods of normal mood, these periods often last less than eight weeks.


The symptoms of cyclothymic disorder are similar to those of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders, but are less severe in nature.

Symptoms of the highs of cyclothymia can include:

  • An exaggerated feeling of happiness
  • Extreme optimism
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Talking more than usual
  • Poor judgment
  • Racing thoughts
  • Irritable or agitated behavior
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Increased drive to achieve goals
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Tendency to be easily distracted

Symptoms of the lows of cyclothymia can include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or empty
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in weight
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Sleep problems
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue or feeling slowed down
  • Problems concentrating
  • Thinking of death or suicide


Because most people with cyclothymia experience mild symptoms, they don’t always know to seek medical treatment. For those who do, treatments involve a combination of medication and therapy, including:


While no medications have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for cyclothymia, many doctors will prescribe drugs used for bipolar disorder to prevent periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms.


As with bipolar I and II disorders, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy can help individuals cope with mood swings, manage stress, and improve relationships.

Barn Life Recovery: Bipolar Disorder Treatment Center in Orange County, CA

From feeling on top of the world one day to crumbling beneath life’s pressures the next day, bipolar disorder can be both mentally and physically exhausting. For sustained, long-term resilience from the cycle of manic and depressive episodes, Barn Life gas pioneered an approach to bipolar disorder treatment that utilizes eastern modalities coupled with community. As the first community-based program in California, we address the sociological factors often overlooked in managed care. By using eastern approaches to mental health treatment, we help you reframe bipolar disorder to establish coping mechanisms for mental clarity and prolonged recovery.

A Day in the Barn Life: Sample Intensive Outpatient Schedule for Bipolar Treatment

  • 8am – 9am: Wake up safe and comfortable in your own home
  • 9am – 9:30am: Barn Bus arrives for pick up.
  • 9:30am – 10:30am: Behavioral Activation Group
  • 10:30am – 12pm: Individual Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • 12pm – 1:30pm: Roll out your mats for a Mindfulness Group with a dose of vitamin D
  • After 1:30pm: Enjoy the rest of your day by hanging out at the Barn, heading off to work, or returning home.

Learn more about our Bipolar Disorder Treatment options

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Barn Life is uniquely special. As someone who has had long stretches of sobriety with "traditional" communities and methods, Barn Life stepped in when I started struggling during the pandemic and said "traditional" methods failed to help.The staff here are exceptional. This is a truly subjective statement, but it is my honest opinion that the people from the owner (Hi Matt!) to EVERYONE else works there because they believe in the work and want to share the tools they found.Barn Life and their little sibling, Peer Mental Wellness were the launchpad from a shell of an existence to person with self-love/respect, and a life-mission of personal development.

Steven D.
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Best for someone looking for spiritual healing in addition to their mental health healing.

Luka P.
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Barn life is probably one of the most amazing facilities you could ever attend when it comes to mental illness. This was the first place that popped up when I was searching for help and I’m so thankful that it did. The environment is very therapeutic, the staff is awesome, and the group discussions and activities were so helpful in me understanding what I was experiencing. Do not hesitate to be a part of this place. It’s literally a game changer. I was only there for 6 weeks but I wished I stayed at least 6 months. Ever since returning home, I’ve been much happier and my perspective has changed dramatically. I’ve done things and participated in events at my college that I never thought I would be able to do. This place is truly amazing and I’m forever grateful that I found this place.

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Through trial and error of trying to stay sober this program is definitely the most caring and supporting of them all if anyone needs help and is willing to help themselves I suggest barnlife they will for a fact give you the push you need and the tools to keep you going

Mason T.
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My daughter has been at Barn Life Recovery now for two months. It was my last resort to send her 9 hours away from me. She has been in drug and mental health rehabs in and out for two years. This was my last stitch effort to save my daughter and get her back to herself. Alyssa and I spoke multiple times before deciding. Their willingness to do everything for her and the different teams they have work with them is amazing. My daughter is happy again and clean and sober. She loves it there in their outpatient program. They restore your faith in humanity. They help restore someone who is broken in so many places to themselves. They have put the light back in my daughters eyes. They are committed to helping each person who truly wants the help. They assist in helping them get jobs and be responsible members of society. I recommend their program to anyone wanting to recover from drug, alcohol and mental health.Thank you to all the people at Barn Life who have made my daughter smile and bring the light back to her eyes. I am truly grateful.DawnaLee

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I am alumni from Zen Recovery Path / a great place , and live a happy healthy life ever since / great peaceful place to recover // Namaste

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