Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental condition that causes severe mood swings, including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and depression (depression).
When you are depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or joy in most activities. When your mood changes to mania or hypomania (less intense than mania), you may feel unhappy, energetic, or unusually irritable. These mood swings can affect sleep, energy, function, judgment, behavior, and the ability to think clearly.
Episodes of mood swings can occur infrequently or several times a year. Most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes and some may not experience anything.
Although bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, following a treatment plan can help control your mood swings and other symptoms. In most cases, bipolar disorder is treated with medication and psychotherapy (psychotherapy)
There are many types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include mania or hypomania and depression. Symptoms can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, resulting in significant distress and difficulty in life.
- Bipolar I disorder. You’ve got at least one manic episode that can precede or follow hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania can trigger a break from reality (mental illness)
- Bipolar II disorder. You may have had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you have never had a manic episode.
- Cyclothymic disorder. You have at least two years or one year in children and adolescents with periods of hypomania symptoms and depressive symptoms over some time (albeit less than major depression).
- Other types. These include, for example, bipolar disorder and related disorders caused by certain medications or alcohol or Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or stroke.
Bipolar II disorder is not a mild form of bipolar I disorder, but a separate diagnosis. While the frantic episodes of bipolar I disorder can be severe and dangerous, individuals with bipolar disorder II can become depressed for a long time, leading to significant impairment.
Although bipolar disorder can occur at any age, it is usually diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s. Symptoms vary from person to person, and symptoms may vary over time.
Mania and hypomania
Mania and hypomania are two different types of episodes, but they have the same signs. Mania is more severe than hypomania and causes more noticeable problems and relationship problems at work, school, and social activities. Mania can trigger a break from reality (mental illness) and require hospitalization.
A mania and a hypomanic episode are two or more of these symptoms:
- Unusual excitement, jumping or wire
- Increased activity, energy, or agitation
- An exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence (euphoria)
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unusual talkativeness
- Racing thoughts
- Making bad decisions, for example, buying sprays, taking sexual risks, or making stupid investments
Major depressive episode
A major depressive episode can include symptoms that are severe enough to cause significant difficulty in daily activities such as work, school, social activities, or relationships. An episode may have five or more of these symptoms:
- Depressed moods such as sadness, emptiness, hopelessness, or being in tears (in children and adolescents, depressed moods may seem irritating)
- Indicated as a lack of interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities
- Significant weight loss, weight gain or loss or loss of appetite in the absence of diet (in children, failure to gain weight, as expected, may be a sign of depression)
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Restlessness or slow behavior
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Ineffectiveness or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Decreased ability to think or focus, or inability to make decisions
- Suicidal ideation, planning, or attempt
Other features of bipolar disorder
Symptoms of bipolar I and bipolar II disorders may include anxiety, depression, psychiatry, or other aspects. The timing of symptoms may include diagnostic labels such as mixed or quick cycling. In addition, bipolar signs can occur during pregnancy or change with the seasons.
Symptoms in children and teens
Symptoms of bipolar disorder are difficult to identify in children and adolescents. It is often difficult to tell whether these are normal fluctuations, the effects of stress or trauma, or symptoms of a mental illness other than bipolar disorder.
Children and adolescents may have separate major depressive or manic or hypomanic episodes, but this pattern is different for adults with bipolar disorder. Moods can change rapidly during episodes. Some babies may experience menstruation without mood swings between episodes.
The most important symptoms of bipolar disorder in children and teenagers may be severe mood swings that are different from their usual mood swings.
The exact cause of the bipolar disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as:
- Biological differences. Physical changes appear in the brain of people with bipolar disorder. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may help to identify the causes in the end.
- Genetics. Bipolar disorder is more common in people with a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent. Researchers are trying to find the genes involved in bipolar disorder.
Factors that increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode:
- Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder
If you have bipolar disorder, you may have another health condition that needs to be treated with bipolar disorder. Certain conditions can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder or make treatment more successful. Examples include:
- Eating disorders
- Alcohol or drug problems
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Physical health problems, such as heart disease, thyroid problems, headaches, or obesity
When to see a doctor
Despite the mood peak, people with bipolar disorder often do not realize how much their emotional instability is disrupting their lives and the lives of their loved ones and do not get the treatment they need.
If you are like some people with bipolar disorder, you may experience happier feelings and more productive cycles. However, this happiness can always leave you feeling depressed and exhausted following an emotional breakdown and perhaps financial, legal, or relationship issues.
If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or psychiatrist. Bipolar disorder does not heal automatically. Getting treatment from a psychiatrist experienced in bipolar disorder can help bring your symptoms under control.