Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior. An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.
Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described below.
Manic Mood Changes
A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
Being easily distracted
Increasing activities, such as taking on new projects
Being overly restless
Sleeping little or not being tired
Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
Depressive Mood Changes
An overly long period of feeling sad or hopeless
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.
Feeling tired or “slowed down”
Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
Being restless or irritable
Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide.
Behaving impulsively and engaging in pleasurable, high-risk behaviors