Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is a long-term mental illness marked by unusual changes in mood. This condition, also known as manic depression and bipolar-mood disorder, usually presents in the teen and young adult years, but can affect men and women, children and adults. Affected persons may exhibit periods of intense activity and happiness – known as mania – interspersed with periods of depression. Without treatment, bipolar disorder can have a negative impact on relationships, school and work. A combination of psychotherapy and medication can help. This illness affects each patient differently, so individualized treatment works best.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

There are several types of bipolar disorder including bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder. Each of these presents different symptoms. The characteristic symptom of bipolar I is mood swings severe enough to interfere with relationships and work. Bipolar II is less severe in terms of wild mood swings, but depressive episodes generally last longer. Patients with bipolar II are sometimes able to function fairly normally though they may appear irritable or anxiety-disorder/”>overly anxious at times. Cyclothymic disorder patients still suffer disruptive mood swings, though the highs and lows are not as severe as other forms of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms also vary by phase. During the manic phase, patients may appear euphoric, agitated and easily distracted. Poor judgement, risk-taking behaviors, gambling, over-spending and alcohol or drug use may accompany manic episodes. An increase in physical activity and decrease in sleep may also be evidence of mania. During the depressive phase, sadness, anxiety, decreased interest in favorite activities, concentration problems, insomnia, fatigue and suicidal thoughts or behavior may be present.

Diagnosing bipolar disorder can be difficult and may require a combination of tests. A psychological evaluation is conducted to identify patterns in thoughts and behavior that may match the criteria for bipolar disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This evaluation may include gathering a full family history as bipolar disorder often runs in families. If bipolar disorder is suspected, laboratory tests and physical exams may be conducted to rule out any other causes for the mood disturbances.


The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it is believed that an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain play a significant role. Scientists believe these neurotransmitters can be affected by biology, genetics and the environment. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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