Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition in which a person has wide or extreme mood swings that vary in length and severity. The disorder may be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, and genetics may be a factor. You have a greater chance of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder if it runs in your family.

In most people with bipolar disorder, there is no clear cause for the periods of extreme happiness and high activity, or depression and low activity. Symptoms can last weeks, months, and even years and vary during the manic and depressive phases.

Symptoms of a manic episode may include:

  • Extremely high self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Talking more than usual, often loudly and quickly
  • Becoming distracted easily
  • Doing too many activities at once
  • Risky behavior, such as spending sprees, substance abuse, hyper-sexuality, and reckless driving
  • Racing thoughts

Symptoms of a major depressive episode may include:

  • Intense sadness or despair, including feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Sleep problems, such as sleeping too little or too much
  • Feeling restless or agitated
  • Slowed movements
  • Changes in appetite
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

The following may trigger a manic episode in someone with bipolar disorder:

  • Periods of not being able to sleep (insomnia)
  • Medicines such as antidepressants or steroids
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Childbirth

Bipolar disorder can be treated with medication and psychotherapy. It is a long-term condition that needs ongoing care.