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Bipolar Disorder Health Center

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Bipolar Disorder - Symptoms

Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings, from feeling overly energetic (mania) to feeling very sad or having low energy (depression).2

Mania may make you:

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Understanding Bipolar Disorder: The Basics

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depressive illness, is a serious, double-edged mental illness. In contrast to the sustained bleakness of major depression (technically called unipolar disorder when episodes only involve major depression and no manic or hypomanic periods), bipolar disorder is characterized by cyclical periods of high energy and elation and then low energy and despair. The pattern of the mood alternations varies widely among those with the disorder. In some people, years of...

Read the Understanding Bipolar Disorder: The Basics article > >

  • Feel extremely happy or very irritable.
  • Not need as much sleep as usual. (You may feel rested after 3 hours of sleep.)
  • Talk more than usual.
  • Be more active than usual.
  • Have trouble concentrating because of having too many thoughts at the same time (racing thoughts).
  • Act impulsively or do reckless things, such as go on shopping sprees, drive recklessly, or get into foolish business ventures. Or you may have frequent, indiscriminate, or unsafe sex.

Depression may make you:

  • Feel sad or anxious for a significant period of time.
  • Have slowed thoughts and speech because of low energy.
  • Have trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions.
  • Have changes in eating and sleeping habits. You may eat or sleep too much or too little.
  • Have less interest in your usual activities, including sex.
  • Have suicidal thoughts.

Types of bipolar disorder

  • Bipolar I. This is the classic form of the illness. It causes episodes of mania and depression that keep coming back. The depression may last for a short time or for months. You may then go back to feeling normal for a time, or you may go right into a manic high.
  • Bipolar II. With this form, you will have depression just as in bipolar I. But the manic highs are less severe (hypomania). People with bipolar II have more depressive lows than hypomanic highs.

Some people may have bipolar disorder with mixed symptoms. Their highs and lows of mania and depression occur together. This makes the disorder challenging to treat and very frustrating for you and for those around you. It can also lead to hospitalization if your daily functioning becomes impaired.

If you have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, you may have at least four episodes of depression, mania, or both within a 12-month period. You may go directly from a low to a high. Or you may have a short time lapse between the two extreme moods.

In addition to changes in mood, some people with bipolar disorder also have symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, or symptoms of psychosis.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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