Bipolar Disorder


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What are the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar causes dramatic mood swings-from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

Signs and symptoms of mania include:

  • Increased energy, activity and restlessness
  • Excessively "high," overly good, euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
  • Distractibility, can't concentrate well
  • Little sleep needed
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers
  • Poor judgment
  • A lasting behavior that is different from usual
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medication
  • Proactive, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
  • Increased sexual drive
  • A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with 3 or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, 4 additional symptoms must be present.

Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) includes:

  • Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Sleeping too much, or can't sleep
  • Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain
  • Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical injury or illness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • A depressive episode is diagnosed if 5 or more of these symptoms last most of the day nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.

A mild to moderate level of mania is called hypomania. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it and may even be associated with good functioning and enhanced productivity. Without proper treatment, however, hypomania can become severe mania in some people or can switch into depression.

Sometimes, severe episodes of mania or depression include symptoms of psychosis. Common psychotic symptoms are hallucinations (hearing, seeing, or otherwise sensing the presence of things not actually there) and delusions (false, strongly held beliefs not influenced by logical reasoning or explained by person's usual cultural concepts."

In some people, however, symptoms of mania and depression may occur together in what is called a mixed bipolar state. Symptoms of a mixed state often include agitation, trouble sleeping, significant change in appetite, psychosis, and suicidal thinking.

What is the treatment for Bipolar Disorder?

Treatment is critical for recovery. A combination of medications, professional help and support from family, friends, and peers help individuals with bipolar disorder stabilize their emotions and behavior. Therapy plays an important role in improving the course and outcome of this illness. In particular, those with bipolar disorder often have strained relationships with loves ones because of their experiences during manic or depressive episodes; therapy can help repair these torn relationships. In addition, therapy can educate people about the signs and symptoms of their illness, how to pay attention to warning signs and how to stop emerging episodes before they progress. Furthermore therapy can help achieve and maintain a healthy self-image and self-esteem, emotional stability; aid in the development of healthy coping skills and stress management techniques. Support and self-help groups are also an invaluable resource for leaning coping skills, feeling acceptance and avoiding social isolation.


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
730 N. Franklin St., Suite 501
Chicago, IL 60610-7224
Phone: 312-642-0049
Toll-free: 800-826-3632
Fax: 312-642-7243
Web site:

Bipolar Focus
Web site:

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Phone: 301-443-4513 or 866-615-NIMH (6464), toll-free
TTY: 301-443-8431; fax: 301-443-4279
Web site: