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Bipolar Disorder (AKA, Manic-Depression)

What is bipolar disorder?

People with bipolar disorder have distinct periods of feeling excessively good, important, energetic or irritable. These periods are called manic episodes.

Because many manic episodes can feel good, patients experiencing mania will typically deny any need for treatment. But mania is a very serious condition that often involves regrettable, dangerous, or even life-threatening behaviors.

Mania often leads to medical, legal, social, occupational, and academic problems.

Most people who experience manias also have periods of depression.

Manias are characterized by the following symptoms lasting several days, weeks, or even months:

    • Inflated self-esteem or exaggerated feelings of being especially important or gifted
    • Decreased need for sleep (feeling rested with little or no sleep)
    • Talking more than usual or feeling pressured to keep talking
    • Feeling that your thoughts are racing
    • Distractibility (inability to keep your attention focused on one task)
    • Increase in activities directed toward goals (e.g., taking on many new classes or projects)
    • Feeling agitated or moving faster than usual
    • Feeling an increased sex drive
    • Making poor decisions that involve pleasurable activities (e.g., spending far too much money, engaging in unsafe sex with numerous partners, or making foolish investments)

    Bipolar disorder can manifest itself in different ways:

    Bipolar I Disorder is diagnosed when a person has manic episodes that are severe enough to cause major problems for the individual, even resulting in hospitalization. Bipolar I Disorder is usually accompanied by major depressive episodes.

    Bipolar II Disorder is diagnosed when a person has less severe manic episodes (called hypomanias) that do not cause significant problems, accompanied by episodes of major depression.

    Cyclothymia is diagnosed when a person frequently has symptoms of both mania and depression for at least two years, but the symptoms are not severe enough to be considered Bipolar Disorder.

    Want to learn more about bipolar disorder?

    Check out these resources:

    Are you concerned that you may have bipolar disorder?

    See our resource database for a list of books, websites, and local options for seeking professional evaluations and treatment.

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