This topic discusses bipolar disorder in adults. If
you are concerned that your child or teen may have bipolar disorder, see the
topic Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens.
Bipolar disorder is an
illness that causes extreme mood changes from manic episodes of very high
energy to the extreme lows of
depression. It is also called manic-depressive
This illness can cause behavior so extreme that you
cannot function at work, in family or social situations, or in relationships
with others. Some people with bipolar disorder become suicidal.
million Americans—about 1% of the population, or 1 out of 100 people—have
bipolar disorder, and rates are similar in other countries.1
It's important to know that you're not alone. Talking with others who suffer from bipolar disorder may help you learn that there
is hope for a better life. And treatment can help you get back in
The cause of bipolar
disorder isn't completely understood. It tends to run in families. It may
also be affected by your living environment or family situation. One possible
cause is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain.
The symptoms depend on your
mood swings, or "highs" and "lows." During a manic high, you may feel:
- Very happy, energetic, or on edge.
- Like you need very little sleep.
- Overly self-confident.
Some people spend a lot of money or get involved in dangerous
activities when they are manic. After a manic episode, you may
return to normal. Or your mood may swing in the opposite direction to feelings
of sadness, depression, and hopelessness. During a depressive episode, or low, you may have:
- Trouble thinking and making decisions.
- Memory problems.
- Less interest in things you have enjoyed in the past.
- Thoughts about killing yourself.
The mood swings of bipolar
disorder can be mild or extreme. They may come on slowly over several days or
weeks or suddenly over a few minutes or hours. These mood swings may last for a
few hours or for several months.
disorder is hard to diagnose. First, your doctor or therapist will ask detailed questions about what kind of symptoms you
have and how long they last. Your urine and blood may be tested to rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms.
There are two types of bipolar disorder: I and II.
To be diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, you must
- A manic episode lasting at least a week (or less, if you had to be hospitalized).
- During that time, three or more symptoms of mania, such as needing less sleep or feeling as if your thoughts are racing.
For bipolar II disorder, your doctor will look for the same symptoms, but the manic high may be less
severe and shorter.