Bipolar disorder is a severe mental illness that causes changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function.
Bipolar disorder was formally referred to as manic depression. It affects men and women equally. The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it does occur more often in people with relatives who have the disorder.
Two Primary Types of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar I: Bipolar I is characterized by having a history one or more manic episodes. During a manic episode, people may feel high and on top of the world, or uncomfortably irritable and “revved up.“ Manic episodes may also be preceded or followed by major depressive episodes which are characterized by feeling extremely sad and hopeless. While major depressive episodes often occur in people with bipolar disorder I, they are not required to make the diagnosis, unlike manic episodes which are required.
Bipolar II: People with this diagnosis have a history of both hypomanic and major depressive episodes. Hypomanic episodes are similar to manic but in general are less severe and allow a person to still function.
- Feeling on top of the world. A sensation of sheer and utter happiness that nothing—not even bad news or a horrifying event or tragedy—can change
- Sudden or extreme irritability or rage. While mania is often portrayed as a pleasurable experience, that is not the case for many people with bipolar disorder
- Grandiose delusions. Individuals imagine that they have special connections with God, celebrities, or political leaders
- Invincibility or unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities. The person feels that nothing can prevent him or her from accomplishing any task
- Hyperactivity. Scheduling more events in a day than can be accomplished; inability to relax or sit still
- Excessively risky behavior. Reckless driving, outlandish spending sprees, foolish business investments, or out-of character sexual behavior
- Uncontrollable racing thoughts/rapid speech. Ideas that abruptly change from topic to topic expressed in loud, rapid speech that becomes increasingly incoherent
- Less need for sleep
- Intense sadness or despair. The person feels helpless, hopeless, and worthless
- No interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Loss of energy, fatigue
- Sleep difficulties. Either sleeping too much or not at all
- Changes in appetite. Either a noticeable increase in appetite or a substantial weight loss unrelated to dieting
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
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