Bipolar disorder was formerly called manic depression. It is a major affective disorder, or mood disorder, characterized by dramatic mood swings. Bipolar disorder is a serious condition, when mania causes sleeplessness, sometimes for days, along with hallucinations, psychosis, grandiose delusions, and/or paranoid rage.
Bipolar disorder is a complex genetic disorder. The mood swings associated with it alternate from major, or clinical, depression to mania or extreme elation. The mood swings can range from very mild to extreme, and they can happen gradually or suddenly within a timeframe of minutes to hours. When mood swings happen frequently, the process is called rapid cycling.
Along with the dramatic mood swings, patients with bipolar disorder may have disturbances in thinking. They may also have distortions of perception and impairment in social functioning.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
Like with other mood disorders, what causes bipolar disorder is not known. What is known is that bipolar disorder has a genetic component and can run in families.
At What Age Is Bipolar Disorder Usually Diagnosed?
Bipolar disorder usually appears between ages 15 and 24 and persists throughout a lifetime. It's rare that newly diagnosed mania is seen in children or in adults over age 65.
Severity of symptoms varies with individuals who have bipolar disorder. While some people have a few symptoms, others have many that impair their ability to work and live a normal life.
Marked by relapses and remissions, bipolar disorder has a high rate of recurrence if untreated. Patients with severe mania usually require hospitalization to keep them from risky behaviors. Those who are severely depressed also might need hospitalization to keep them from acting on suicidal thoughts.
About 90% of individuals with bipolar I disorder, which is the more serious form, have at least one psychiatric hospitalization. Two out of three will have two or more hospitalizations in their lifetime.
What Are the Depression Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?