Bipolar Symptoms & Treatment
One day your friend seems fine. The next day, it's as if all heck has broken loose. They're planning to do a hundred different things -- most of them by the end of the day. A week later, you can't get in touch with them, and they've taken the week off work. When they reluctantly allow a visit to their apartment, the place is a mess -- and so is your friend. It looks like she hasn't moved from the couch for days. She's gone from a ball of energy to a block of hopelessness in just a week's time. This is what one experience of bipolar disorder looks like.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known in some parts of the world by its older name of "manic depression," is a mental disorder that is characterized by serious and significant mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder experiences alternating "highs" (what clinicians call "mania") and "lows" (also known as depression). Both the manic and depressive periods can be brief, from just a few hours to a few days. Or the cycles can be much longer, lasting up to several weeks or even months. The periods of mania and depression vary from person to person -- many people may only experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even be aware that they have the disorder.
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A manic episode is characterized by extreme happiness, extreme irritability, hyperactivity, little need for sleep and/or racing thoughts, which may lead to rapid speech. People in a manic episode feel like they can do anything, make plans to try and do all those things, and believe that nothing can stop them. A depressive episode is characterized by extreme sadness, a lack of energy or interest in things, an inability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. On average, someone with this condition may have up to three years of normal mood between episodes of mania or depression.
According to scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not yet known -- but it can still be effectively treated. Our library of bipolar resources will help you explore the ins and outs of this condition.
Can Bipolar Disorder be Treated?
Like most mental disorders, this condition is readily treated with modern psychiatric medications and psychotherapy. Treatment for bipolar disorder is effective and helps most people keep a balanced mood throughout their day, most days of the month. One of the biggest challenges of treatment is helping a person find and keep a treatment routine that works best for them over the long-term. Most people with bipolar disorder benefit from medications for much of their life, but it can be a challenge to stick with the medications when all seems well years down the road.