This glossary is meant to define and clarify terms which I use on “The Bipolar Parent” and throughout my works as a whole. I will try to provide accurate information and as well as an occasional look into my own experiences dealing with the contents of this glossary. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. If you have any questions or suggestions, please visit the Contact Us page.

Recommended Reading: – U.S. Library of Medicine
Wikipedia – Bipolar Disorders Health Topics
Espoir Bipolare — A new blog where The Bipolar Parent posts will be translated into French!


Trigger Warning – a statement placed at the top of an article or post which warns about its contents, which may include graphic descriptions of disturbing content such as abuse, rape, or suicide.  Some readers may be “triggered” and flashback to prior traumas (see also: PTSD), so a warning is considered courteous.  The term appears to have originated on feminst websites and is now widely used.

Mania – a psychiatric state with symptoms of grandiosity, irritability, pressured speech, and rapid thoughts. Sexual inhibitions are lowered and impulsive spending increases.  Medication compliance is rare.

Hypomania – a similar state to mania except the symptoms are less intense. People undergoing this episode also have better focus and are more contented than those going through a manic state.

Depression – a psychiatric disorder presenting with symptoms such as persistent feelings of hopelessness, dejection, poor concentration, lack of energy, inability to sleep, and, sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Bipolar I – a diagnosis characterized by both severe depression and full-blown manic episodes, where the latter may also have psychotic features like hallucinations and delusions of godhood.  Both episodes prevent normal function and may require hospitalization.

Bipolar II – a diagnosis characterized by both depression and hypomanic episodes (“below mania”), but not full-blown mania.  Often productive, persons with BPD II are rarely hospitalized.

Rapid cycling – when a bipolar person passes quickly from one state to the other (i.e. manic to depressed), sometimes as quickly as a day or an hour.  Note: four episodes per day is called “Ultradian Cycling.”

Cyclothymia – a tricky diagnosis with manic symptoms less severe than Bipolar I and depressive symptoms less severe than Bipolar II. Impact on productivity varies; some individuals may be hyper-productive with little impairment, whereas others are manic or severely depressed for most of their lives.

Mixed episode – a state where a sufferer presents with depression and mania at the same time or in rapid succession. Highly dangerous, the mixture of self-loathing from depression and high energy from mania means that people in mixed states are more likely to successfully carry out a plan for suicide.  Lithium, widely considered the gold-standard drug for bipolar disorder, is not the best at treating these.

Unipolar – Not bipolar. It can be broken down into uni, meaning one, and polar, meaning pole–as opposed to bipolar, which means two poles. Often used in conjunction with depression suffered by someone who doesn’t have bipolar disorder.

Comorbid – indicates the presence of one or more additional disorders. Often used “with” or “part of” a diagnosis (eg: “bipolar comorbid anxiety”).

Acquired – a condition or symptom not present at the person’s birth, but developed later or picked up from an external event (eg. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known colloquially as AIDS).

Stimuli – external and internal events, which the senses track and the brain processes.  Pavlov’s conditioning experiments, which successfully resulted in dogs who drooled at the ring of a bell, relied on controlling external stimuli.

Affect – a term describing how people feel emotions and then show them with body language.   Also used to examine how people interact with the world around them (see: stimuli).  When psychologists measure someone’s mood or emotional state, the result is labeled with a specific phrase like, “patient N presented with positive affect.”  This Wikipedia article on the topic is fairly exhaustive and worth a read.

Arousal – related to affect, arousal is the physical response to stimuli.

Neurotypical (NT) – a term describing a person with brain chemistry and social development recognized as “normal.”  Origins of the word stem from the autistic community, who used it to describe people not on the spectrum.

Aneurotypical – the antithesis of the word above, an aneurotypical person is anyone with brain chemistry categorized as “not normal,” which includes people with mood disorders, personality disorders, mental illnesses, anyone on the autism spectrum, and–technically–anyone who has had a brain injury or stroke.  (Related to atypical, which is used to describe things  like cancer.)

Suicidal ideation – thoughts of self-harm and suicide, to the point where one may act on them.  Extremely dangerous.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) –  an extreme anxiety disorder due to past emotional or physical traumas.  Includes flashbacks, nightmares, hypervigilance, and avoidance of situations which might be similar to the original pain.  Often comorbid with mood disorders and other mental illnesses.

Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) – a rare condition occurring within two weeks of giving birth. PPP is characterized by mood swings, racing thoughts, restless energy, delusions, and hallucinations.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) – a disorder marked by lack of focus, restlessness, and impulsivity.  Once believed to be primarily an issue with young boys, girls and older women are now facing the diagnosis in large numbers.  Often comorbid with bipolar disorder, but difficult to detect due to overlap of symptoms (see also: executive dysfunction).  Used to be referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Executive dysfunction – primarily found in people with ADHD and on the autism spectrum, executive dysfunction is the inability to set and meet goals, self-monitor, and resist wandering off when in the middle of a project.  As this can be very frustrating, individuals with ED tend to have depression and/or low self-esteems.

Intrusive thoughts – a characteristic of psychoses, OCD, and other mood disorders, these are involuntary and usually frightening thoughts or images which may include aggression, sexual content, or religious issues.  Neurotypical people also encounter these thoughts, but are able to dismiss them easier than those who battle with different brain chemistries.

Presenting – showing symptoms.  Used in clinical reporting, especially in reviews of diagnoses and courses of treatment.

Schizophrenia – a disorder which can present with disorientation, delusions, lack of emotion, and hallucinations. Schizophrenia’s onset is generally during young adulthood, but can be later in women. The illness, which worsens over time, affects men and women equally. Antipsychotic medications are the best treatment, but usually come with harsh side-effects like tremor, restlessness, and weight gain.

Emotion – brief reactions to external events which are subjectively important to an individual. These responses are biological, mental, and verbal—like stumbling over one’s words and blushing when speaking to a crush. Emotions shape and are shaped by mood, personality, and motivation.

Mood – a less intense, longer-lasting state of emotion which can appear for no reason or be a reaction to an outside event. A mood is generally considered positive or negative. It can affect a person’s perceptions and change their reactions accordingly. Chronic depression and bipolar are considered mood disorders because of their ability to disrupt these states.

Acute – a disease with either a rapid onset, a brief time in the body, or both. Not to be confused with severe. The opposite of chronic.

Chronic – a long-term condition. Not to be confused with severe. The opposite of acute.