Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms can include an extremely elevated mood called mania. They can also include episodes of depression. Bipolar disorder is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression.
People with bipolar disorder may have trouble managing everyday life tasks at school or work, or maintaining relationships. There’s no cure, but there are many treatment options available that can help to manage the symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and uncharacteristic behaviors—often without recognizing their likely harmful or undesirable effects.
These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are very different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the person.
During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day. Episodes may also last for longer periods, such as several days or weeks.
|People having a manic episode may:
|People having a depressive episode may:
|Feel very “up,” “high,” elated, or irritable or touchy
|Feel very sad, “down,” empty, worried, or hopeless
|Feel “jumpy” or “wired”
|Feel slowed down or restless
|Have a decreased need for sleep
|Have trouble falling asleep, wake up too early, or sleep too much
|Have a loss of appetite
|Experience increased appetite and weight gain
|Talk very fast about a lot of different things
|Talk very slowly, feel like they have nothing to say, forget a lot
|Feel like their thoughts are racing
|Have trouble concentrating or making decisions
|Think they can do a lot of things at once
|Feel unable to do even simple things
|Do risky things that show poor judgment, such as eat and drink excessively, spend or give away a lot of money, or have reckless sex
|Have little interest in almost all activities, a decreased or absent sex drive, or an inability to experience pleasure (“anhedonia”)
|Feel like they are unusually important, talented, or powerful
|Feel hopeless or worthless, think about death or suicide
Treatments and Therapies
Treatment can help many people, including those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. An effective treatment plan usually includes a combination of medication and psychotherapy, also called “talk therapy.”
Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of mood changes, but some people may have lingering symptoms. Long-term, continuous treatment can help people manage these symptoms.
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