What is Bipolar Disorder?
More than 2 million American adults have
bipolar disorder, a type of mental illness marked by severe
depression, often with long periods of normality in between.
Could you have bipolar disorder?
- I sometimes have very rapid mood swings- lots of energy
or feeling very happy, then feeling hopeless and helpless-
followed by a period of feeling normal. Yes or No
- I sometimes feel much more confident, talk more quickly
or am more outgoing than normal. Yes or No
- Friends and family say I seem reckless and out of
control sometimes. Yes or No
- I worry my mood swings are so intense that they affect
my work or my relationships. Yes or No
- I have had thoughts of killing myself. Yes or No
If you answered "yes" to these questions, you may have
bipolar disorder. Bipolar sufferers may have severe highs and lows; then weeks,
months or even years of near-normal life may pass before the next episode.
Untreated, these episodes tend to increase in frequency. Some people with
bipolar disorder become
suicidal; the risk appears to be higher early in the course
of the illness, so recognition and early treatment are
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Could I have bipolar disorder or some other condition
with these symptoms?
- What treatments are available for bipolar disorder?
- What else can I do to minimize my symptoms?
- Where can I find emotional support for my myself and my
Did You Know?
- The key sign of bipolar disorder is extreme changes
in mood (poles). Extreme mania is at one end, and severe depression at the
- Bipolar disorder is often mistaken for
clinical depression when a depressive mood is
the first sign of something wrong.
- The cause of bipolar disorder is a mystery, but
experts thing that an underlying problem with the balance of chemicals in the
brain causes extreme mood swings.
- Mood swings can last for hours, days, weeks and even
Hypomania is a type of bipolar disorder which causes
mild or moderate episodes of mania.
Lithium is a mood-stabilizing drug, and is the oldest
and most often prescribed treatment for bipolar disorder. It
helps reduce the severity and frequency of mania and may
also help relieve the depression symptoms of
the disease as well.
- Manic-depressive illness is another term for bipolar
Know Your Numbers
- The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health
estimates that one in every 100 U.S. adults has bipolar disorder.
- When four or more episodes occur within a 12-month
period, a person is said to have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder.
- About 60% of people with bipolar disorder have drug or
alcohol dependence, seasonal depression or certain
anxiety disorders, such as posttraumatic
For more, please read the
Bipolar Disorder and
Depression articles, which describe the symptoms of
WebMD the Magazine - September/October 2005
Last Editorial Review: 10/31/2005
© 2005 WebMD Inc. All rights