energized some days, and very sad and depressed on other days? Do these moods last for a week or more? Do your mood changes make it hard to sleep, stay focused, or go to work? Some people with these symptoms have bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness.
What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a serious brain illness. It is also called manic-depressive illness. People with bipolar disorder go through unusual mood changes. Sometimes they feel very happy and “up,” and are much more active than usual. This is called mania. And sometimes people with bipolar disorder feel very sad and “down,” and are much less active. This is called depression. Bipolar disorder can also cause changes in energy and behavior.
Bipolar disorder is not the same as the normal ups and downs everyone goes through. Bipolar symptoms are more powerful
than that. They can damage relationships and make it hard to go to school or keep a job. They can also be dangerous. Some people with bipolar disorder try to hurt themselves or attempt suicide. People
with bipolar disorder can get treatment. With help, they can get better and lead successful lives.
Who develops bipolar disorder?
Anyone can develop bipolar disorder. It often starts in a person’s late teen or early adult years. But children and adults can have bipolar disorder too. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.
What causes bipolar disorder?
Several factors may contribute to bipolar disorder, including:
· Genes, because the illness runs in families
· Abnormal brain structure and brain function.
The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t always clear. Scientists are finding out more about the disorder by studying it. This research may help doctors predict whether a person will get bipolar disorder. One day, it may also help doctors prevent the illness in some people.
What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?
Bipolar mood changes are called “mood episodes.” People may have
manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. A mixed episode has both manic and depressive symptoms. These mood episodes cause symptoms that last a week or two—sometimes longer. During an episode, the symptoms last every day for most of the day.
Mood episodes are intense. The feelings are strong and happen
along with extreme changes in behavior and energy levels.
People having a manic episode may:
· Feel very “up” or “high”
· Feel“jumpy” or “wired”
· Talk really fast about a lot of different things
· Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
· Have trouble relaxing or sleeping
· Think they can do a lot of things at once and are more active than usual
· Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex.
People having a depressive episode may:
· Feel very “down” or sad
· Feel worried and empty
· Have trouble concentrating
· Forget things a lot
· Lose interest in fun activities and become less active
· Feel tired or “slowed down”
· Have trouble sleeping
· Think about death or suicide.
Can bipolar disorder coexist with other problems?
Yes. Sometimes people having very strong mood episodes may have
psychotic symptoms. These are strong symptoms that cause hallucinations (when people believe things that are not real). People with mania and psychotic symptoms may believe they are rich and famous, or have special powers. People with depression and psychotic symptoms may believe they have committed a crime or that their lives are ruined.
Sometimes behavior problems go along with mood episodes. A
person may drink too much or take drugs. Some people take a lot of risks, like spending too much money or having reckless sex. These problems can damage lives and hurt relationships. Some people with bipolar disorder have trouble keeping a job or doing well in school.
Is bipolar disorder easy to diagnose?
No. Some people have bipolar disorder for years before anyone
knows. This is because bipolar symptoms may seem like several different problems. Family and friends may not see that a person’s symptoms are part of a bigger problem. A doctor may think the
person has a different illness, like schizophrenia or depression.
Also, people with bipolar disorder often have other health problems. This may make it hard for doctors to see the bipolar disorder. Examples of other illnesses include substance abuse, anxiety disorders, thyroid disease, heart disease, and obesity.