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  Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also called "manic-depressive" disease, is a mental illness that causes people to have severe high and low moods. People with bipolar disorder change from feeling extremely happy (or sometimes irritable) to feeling very sad and depressed. Because these symptoms are at the opposite poles of emotions, the condition is referred to as bipolar. Between up and down times, a person with bipolar disorder may have normal moods.

"Manic" describes the periods when the person feels overly excitable and confident. Sometimes these feelings present themselves as positive emotions, but other times they can quickly turn to confusion, irritability, anger, and even rage. During “depressive" periods, people with bipolar disorder experience great sadness and depression. The depressive times, or episodes, are very similar to what a person suffering from depression experiences. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with depression. Most people with bipolar disorder spend more time in depressed phases than in manic phases, although this is very individual.

What are the symptoms?
Every person experiences high and low moods, but a bipolar person’s moods change rapidly and often with no set pattern. Depression does not always come directly after a manic episode – some people have many manic episodes before a depression. Some people experience only depression or mania for months or years before experiencing the opposite. The severity of the mood phases is different from person to person, and at different times in their life.

Symptoms of mania ("The highs"):

  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden changes from being joyful to being irritable, angry, and hostile
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech and poor concentration
  • Increased energy and less need for sleep
  • High sex drive
  • Tendency to make grand and unattainable plans
  • Tendency to show poor judgment, such as deciding to quit a job
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Increased impulsive acts or thoughts
Some people can become psychotic, seeing and hearing things that aren't there and holding false beliefs from which they cannot be swayed. At times, some people see themselves as having superhuman skills and powers, or think they are god-like.

Symptoms of depressive cycles ("The lows"):
(The symptoms of bipolar depression are similar as other serious depression)

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • A change in appetite causing weight loss or gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Attempting suicide

Other Sources of Information

  Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
Mental Health America
  National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute of Mental Health

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services