Emotional Breakdown vs Bipolar Disorder
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"Emotional breakdown" vs. bipolar (Pam)

I have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder while i was admitted into the hospital. I am 44 years old and have never had a manic episode to the best of my knowledge. My question being...what concrete evidence is there to convince me I do have the disorder. What difference is there between an emotional breakdown and a manic episode. Thank you very much. Pam

Dear Pam
There is a long section about diagnosis of bipolar disorder without obvious "mania" on my site at Psycheducation.org.  Not everyone with an "emotional breakdown", who does not have obvious manic episodes, has "bipolar II" -- but it's a possibility worth learning about.  Generally a "breakdown" is a term people use to describe any episode where someone becomes completely non-functional due to their emotions.  There are several possible reasons.  If some kind of substance use (e.g. alcohol or speed or cocaine) is not in the picture, other possibilities include: a thyroid problem (most common amongst the medical problems that can produce emotional symptoms); major depression (depression with no evidence of anything "hypomanic" or cyclic); bipolar variations; and what generally gets lumped as "personality disorder", a poorly researched wastebasket term.

Dr. Phelps

Published September, 2000

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