Bipolar disorder, formerly referred to as manic-depressive illness, is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings. It is characterized by episodes of mania and depression lasting from days to months. It usually begins in late adolescence, but can start in early childhood or as late as a person’s 40s or 50s.
A manic state can be identified by feelings of extreme irritability and/or euphoria. During an episode of mania, several other symptoms can occur at the same time, such as agitation, surges of energy, reduced need for sleep, talkativeness, pleasure seeking and increased risk-taking behavior.
The other state of depression produces feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness and lack of energy.
Not everyone’s symptoms are the same. The severity of mania and depression can vary. Bipolar disorder can cause mental suffering, problems with family, friends and co-workers, loss of job productivity, financial problems or death from reckless behavior or suicide.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder can include:
- Changes in energy and activity, either in spikes of restlessness or extreme fatigue
- Shifts in eating, sleeping or other daily habits
- Impulsiveness, poor judgment and distractibility
- Racing thoughts and speech, jumping quickly from one idea to another
- Increased or decreased sexual drive, provocative and intrusive behavior
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, failure and lack of self-worth
- Grandiose delusions, inflated sense of self-importance
- Spending sprees
- Abuse of drugs, alcohol and sleeping medications
- Excessive irritability and aggressive behavior; social withdrawal
- Diminished capacity for pleasure or loss of interest in activities
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Unexplained aches or pain
- Increased feelings of worry or anxiety
- Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells
- Thoughts of death or suicide attempts
While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, most people can be successfully treated after being diagnosed. Medication and therapy are essential parts of treatment.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, reach out to your health care provider. Visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness website to learn more.
Credit: Frontier Behavioral Health. Used with permission.