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Bipolar Disorder - Topic Overview

Bipolar 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 have had:

  • 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.

Bipolar disorder is treatable. With treatment, which includes medicines and counseling, you can feel better.

You may need to try several medicines to find the combination that works for you.

  • Most people with bipolar disorder need to take a medicine called a mood stabilizer every day.
  • Medicines called antipsychotics can help get a manic phase under control.
  • Antidepressants are used carefully for episodes of depression, because they cause some people to move into a manic phase.

Counseling for you and your family is also an important treatment. It can help you cope with some of the work and relationship issues that the illness may cause.

You can do a few things on your own to help deal with bipolar disorder. These include regular activity, getting enough sleep, and learning to recognize early signs of highs and lows.

People often stop taking their medicines during a manic phase because they feel good. But this is a mistake. You must take your medicines regularly, even if you are feeling better.

Learning about bipolar disorder:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

Living with bipolar disorder:

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 03, 2013
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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