Bipolar disorder is a serious life long mental illness that affects about 5.7 million Americans. It's characterized by dramatic mood swings from mania to depression.
Doctors aren't sure what causes bipolar disorder. It's likely that there are many factors involved including genetics as bipolar tends to run in families.
Environmental factors such as stressful event or drugs or alcohol can also trigger an episode.
Whatever the cause, brain scans have shown that the brains of people with bipolar disorder are different.
Low levels of brain chemicals have been consistently linked to depression and bipolar disorder.
This may lead to abnormal brain cell function. However, exactly how the change in brain chemicals leads to bipolar symptoms isn't clear.
The brain chemical Serotonin is connected to many body functions such as sleep, eating, sexual activity and impulsivity.
Other brain chemicals such as Norepinephrine which is important for emotions and Dopamine which is commonly linked with the pleasure system of the brain may also play a part.
Symptoms of bipolar can be difficult to pinpoint and as a result people are often wrongly diagnosed with other conditions.
That's why it's important to have an open and honest dialogue with your doctor or therapist.
Today, there's no cure for bipolar disorder, so life long treatment is necessary to keep symptoms and check.
Continuous medication as well as therapy, along with the help of family and friends can allow people living with bipolar to live happy, healthy lives.