Bipolar disorder is a medical condition in which a person experiences extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression). Also called manic-depression, it is more serious than the everyday ups and downs that most people experience. During a manic episode, a person’s mood flies high—he or she may be excessively excited, irritable, or aggressive. People who are manic might not see anything wrong with their behavior, even though it’s alienating to family and friends. During a depressive episode, all that manic energy disappears and that same person might feel sad, sluggish, or disinterested in previously enjoyable activities.

Bipolar disorder can lead to a variety of mood patterns. Some people might primarily have episodes of mania or of depression, or they may cycle rapidly between the two. It’s also possible to remain symptom-free for extended periods of time.

Bipolar disorder is based in brain chemistry and tends to run in families. However, environmental factors such as stress, sleep disruption, and drug or alcohol use may also trigger manic-depressive episodes. It is most commonly diagnosed in people of college age. It can affect people’s ability to work, study, interact with others, or take care of themselves. Some people with bipolar disorder have thoughts of suicide.

Bipolar disorder is a treatable condition and the majority of people with this condition respond well to medication and therapy.  It’s important to get help and stick to a prescribed treatment plan.

Symptoms of Mania:

  • Excessively “high,” euphoric mood
  • Extreme irritability
  • Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers, such as feeling able to control world events
  • Decreased need for sleep without feeling tired
  • Racing thoughts or fast speech
  • Distractibility or difficulty concentrating
  • Agitation
  • Spending sprees
  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness
  • Poor judgment
  • Increased sexual drive
  • Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Persistently sad, anxious, irritable or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, including sex
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling tired or rundown