Bipolar disorder is a type of mental illness. It affects your mood, energy levels, and how well you can take care of your day-to-day responsibilities. The condition is called bipolar because of characteristic major swings between happiness and sadness, two poles of the mood spectrum. The disease often develops before the age of 25.
Bipolar disorder can interfere with family and other personal relationships. It can also make it hard to hold a job or succeed in school. There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. For each type, the exact symptoms can vary from person to person. Bipolar I and bipolar II disorders also have additional specific features that can be added to the diagnosis based on particular signs and symptoms.
Some common signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder include:
- Mood episodes
- The highs or extremely joyful times are called manic episodes. Low periods marked by sadness or hopelessness are called depressive episodes. A mixed state is a mood episode that contains moments of mania and depression.
- Manic episode signs
- People in manic episodes often have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes, a manic episode can cause a person to energetically start a new project or work extra hard on something. But a manic episode may also lead to reckless behaviors, especially those related to sex, drugs, or money.
- Depressive episode signs
- Depressive episodes are long periods during which a person feels discouraged and hopeless. Like someone with clinical depression, a bipolar patient often withdraws from activities that he or she once considered enjoyable, such as having sex, socializing with friends, or dabbling in hobbies.
- Mixed state signs
- A patient with bipolar disorder who is in a mixed state may demonstrate some of the most extreme aspects of the disease, which can confuse those close to the bipolar person. For example, someone in a mixed state may be very energetic and hard working, but also seem very depressed.
- Bipolar subtypes
- Cyclothymic disorder: The mildest version of bipolar disorder. A person still has highs and lows, but they’re less dramatic.
- Bipolar I disorder: The most serious subtype, with extreme shifts between mania and depression.
- Bipolar II disorder: Less serious than bipolar I disorder. It can still cause problems in relationships, school, and work.
Bipolar disorder is often a lifetime disorder. If not treated properly, it can become more serious. Mood episodes can occur more often and with greater severity. Medications and other therapies can help manage the condition. However, it’s important to get a good diagnosis and start a treatment plan that helps ease symptoms.
Bipolar disorder can be treated in a variety of ways. If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or mental health provider. Bipolar disorder doesn’t get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health provider with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control.
Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or idealization, please call the National Suicide Hotline today to speak confidentially to a trained counselor for free.