Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Bipolar Disorder Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

If you have just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you might feel frightened. The future may seem terribly uncertain. What will this mean for your life, your family, and your job?

But getting an accurate diagnosis is actually good news. It means you can finally get the treatment you need. People with bipolar disorder usually go about 10 years before being accurately diagnosed.

Recommended Related to Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Romantic Relationships: Dating and Marriage

Navigating any romantic relationship -- whether it's dating or marriage -- can be a tricky endeavor. Add bipolar disorder with its roller-coaster ride of emotions into the mix, and relationships become even more challenging. When Jim McNulty, 58, of Burrillville, Rhode Island, got married in the 1970s, everything seemed fine at first. "It was an absolutely normal courtship," he recalls. "We got along well." Then the mood swings began. During his "up" or hypomanic states, he would spend huge sums...

Read the Bipolar Romantic Relationships: Dating and Marriage article > >

Treatment can make a huge difference. With a combination of things -- good medical care, medication, talk therapy, lifestyle changes, and the support of friends and family -- you can feel better. Bipolar disorder -- or manic depression, as it used to be called -- may not have a cure. But plenty of people with this condition do well; they have families and jobs and live normal lives.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

There are two major types of bipolar disorder.

  • Type I causes periods of mania that often alternate with periods of depression. These periods might last for weeks or months.
  • Type II causes periods of depression that alternate with a less severe form of mania called hypomania.

There are also other types of bipolar disorder. Cyclothymia is characterized by frequent but milder changes in your mood. Rapid cycling is a term used to describe cases of bipolar I or II disorder, in which mood episodes occur 4 or more times over a 1-year period. Women are more likely to have this type of illness course than men and it can come and go at any time in the course of bipolar disorder. Rapid cycling is driven largely by depression and carries an increased risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Whatever type of bipolar disorder you have, there is a still lot of variation from person to person. While some people are beset with frequent mood swings, others go years or even decades before having another. Everyone's experience is different.

Why Me?

Bipolar disorder can make you feel utterly alone. But that really isn't the case. More than 2 million adults in the U.S. are coping with bipolar disorder right now.

It's important not to blame yourself for your condition. Bipolar disorder is a physical illness, not a sign of personal weakness. It's like diabetes, heart disease, or any other health condition.

The important thing is to focus on the future. Living with bipolar disorder can be tough. But don't let it hijack your life. Instead, take action and regain control of your health. With dedication and the help of your health care providers, you can feel better again.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on October 27, 2014

Today on WebMD

lunar eclipse
Signs of mania and depression.
Pills on blank prescription paper
Learn about this popular bipolar disorder medication.
 
serious looking young woman
Assess your symptoms.
teen girl in bad mood
How is each one different?
 
Feeling Ups and Downs
ASSESSMENT
Bipolar or Schizo
Article
 
Foods to Avoid
Article
Man being scolded by his shadow
Article
 
lunar eclipse
Slideshow
depressed man
Article
 
young women not speaking
Article
man talking with therapist
Article