I’m a lifelong lover and student of language, and these are some of the most important words I’ve learned in my journey. If you’re dealing with bipolar, it’s helpful to become familiar with these terms. Each word is linked to more information.



A mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment (e.g., individuals with serious mental illness [SMI] as defined below).


Living an authentic life has become becoming an increasingly popular ideal. Individuals considered authentic are those who generally strive to align their actions with their core values and beliefs with the hope of discovering, and then acting in sync with, their "true selves." When people act in ways that violate their self-concept, they may experience a range of negative feelings from mild discomfort to heavy guilt.


Of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering).


A psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems.   


When two disorders or illnesses occur in the same person, simultaneously or sequentially, they are described as comorbid. Comorbidity also implies interactions between the illnesses that affect the course and prognosis of both.


Dialectical behavior therapy is an evidence-based psychotherapy that began with efforts to treat borderline personality disorder. There is evidence that DBT can be useful in treating mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioral patterns such as self-harm, and substance abuse.


In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in the motivational component of reward-motivated behavior. The anticipation of most types of rewards increases the level of dopamine in the brain. 


A normal, tranquil mental state or mood. It is often used to describe a stable mental state or mood in those affected with bipolar disorder that is neither manic nor depressive, yet is distinguishable from healthy controls. Euthymia is also used to describe the “baseline” of other cyclical mood disorders like major depressive disorder (MDD), borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This state is the goal of psychiatric and psychological interventions.


Hospitalization may be needed to allow for a period during which the individual can be closely monitored to provide accurate diagnosis, to help adjust or stabilize medications, or during an acute episode where a person’s mental illness temporarily worsens.


Awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes.


The branch of neuroscience that deals with the roles of atoms, molecules, and ions in the functioning of nervous systems. Because chemical substances in a physiological system obey the laws of nature that apply in other environments, the activities of neurotransmitters, drugs, and other molecules in the nervous system can be explained in terms of basic chemical concepts.


A type of chemical messenger which transmits signals across a chemical synapse from one neuron (nerve cell) to another 'target' neuron, to a muscle cell, or to a gland cell.


A structured service setting or program that provides care delivered in a specialty mental health facility/hospital/center/clinic, specifically for the treatment of mental health clients. Care is generally provided for visits of 3 hours or less in duration and 1 or 2 days per week.



A mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. The burden of mental illnesses is particularly concentrated among those who experience disability due to SMI.