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Bipolar Disorder


What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. It causes a person to have cycles of extreme mood changes that go beyond normal ups and downs. A person with this disorder will have periods of feeling joyful, energized, and excited (called mania). These are followed by periods of feeling sad and depressed. For this reason, it’s also called manic depression.

Depression affects your body, mood, and thoughts. It also affects how you eat and sleep, think about things, and feel about yourself. It’s not the same as being unhappy or in a blue mood. It’s not a sign of weakness or a condition that can be willed away. Treatment is often needed and is key to recovery.

Bipolar disorder affects equal numbers of men and women. But women tend to have more symptoms of depression than of mania. This disorder often begins in the teens or early adulthood.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Each person may have different symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms:

Depressive symptoms may include:

  • Constant sad, anxious, or empty mood

  • Loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed, including sex

  • Feeling restless or irritable

  • Inability to focus, think, or make decisions

  • Low energy, fatigue, being slowed down

  • Keep having thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (Note: People with this symptom should get treatment right away)

  • Feeling worthless or hopeless

  • Feeling undue guilt

  • Changes in eating habits, eating too much or not enough

  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, waking up very early, or sleeping too much

  • Headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain

Manic symptoms may include:

  • Inflated self-esteem

  • Need for less rest and sleep

  • Easily distracted  or irritable

  • Racing thoughts

  • Physical agitation

  • Risky, aggressive, or destructive behavior

  • Talking a lot and talking fast

  • Excessive high or euphoric feelings (feeling overly happy)

  • Increased sex drive

  • Increased energy

  • Unusual poor judgment (for instance, buying sprees or sexual indiscretion)

  • Increased denial


How is bipolar disorder treated?

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but treatment works well for many people. Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Medicine. Many different medicines are available for bipolar disorder. But, it often takes 4 to 6 weeks for anti-depressants to have a full effect. So it’s important to keep taking the medicine, even if it doesn’t seem to be working at first. It’s also important to talk to your healthcare provider before stopping. Some people have to switch medicines or add medicines to get results.

  • Therapy. This is most often cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy. It focuses on changing the distorted views you have of yourself and your environment. It works to improve your interpersonal relationship skills. It also helps you identify stressors and learn how to manage them.


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