What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme
shifts in mood ranging from a manic to a depressive state. Bipolar disorder is
also called bipolar disease or manic depression.
A person with mania will feel excited, impulsive, euphoric,
and full of energy. He or she might engage in risky or unhealthy behavior. Drug
use, spending sprees, and impulsive or unprotected sex are common during manic
The depressive episodes might bring on deep sadness and
hopelessness. Depression causes a loss of energy and interest in activities the
patient once enjoyed. This phase can include periods of too little or too much
sleep. Also, suicidal thoughts or attempts may come with deep depression.
Sometimes the shifts in mood can be severe. At other times
one might experience a normal mood between episodes of depression and mania.
People with bipolar disorder often have trouble managing everyday life. They
may perform poorly at school or work. They may also have trouble maintaining
What Are the Types of Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar I Disorder
Bipolar I disorder will show at least one manic episode and
one or more major depression episodes. Bipolar I disorder is equally common in
men and women. The first episode in men is usually mania. In women, the first
episode is typically major depression.
Bipolar II Disorder
People with bipolar II experience major depression. But
instead of mania they experience hypomania. With hypomania, a person will still
exhibit high energy, impulsiveness, and excitability. However, the mood is not
as extreme as full-fledged mania, and these patients never experience
hallucinations or delusions during a hypomanic episode. Bipolar II disorder is
more common in women. In men, the number of hypomanic episodes usually equals
or exceeds the number of depressive episodes. In women, the depressive episodes
tend to be more dominant.
This is a “mild” form of bipolar disorder, with mood swings
that are less severe and episodes shifting from hypomania to mild depression.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
This type of bipolar disorder causes rapid changes in mood.
Sometimes a patient may have four or more episodes of major depression, mania,
hypomania, or mixed symptoms within a year. Some people experience more than
one episode in a week or even within one day. Rapid cycling seems to be more
common in people who have their first episode at a younger age. This type
affects more women than men.
How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?
Bipolar affects about 2.6 of the U.S. population, according
to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Bipolar disorder is
challenging to diagnose because mood swings can vary. Studies show about one in
three people diagnosed with major depression may actually have bipolar
disorder. Also, 40 percent of people with bipolar disorder receive another
diagnosis first. They could go several years before being correctly diagnosed.
Bipolar disorder is also tough to diagnose in children and
adolescents. At this age, patients naturally have more erratic changes in mood,
behavior, and energy levels than adults.
Left untreated, bipolar disorder tends to
worsen. The disorder will show more frequent and severe episodes over time. If
bipolar disorder is treated it is possible to lead a healthy and productive life.