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Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes changes in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. People with bipolar disorder experience intense emotional states that typically occur during distinct periods of days to weeks, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic/hypomanic (abnormally happy or irritable mood) or depressive (sad mood). People with bipolar disorder generally have periods of neutral mood as well. When treated, people with bipolar disorder can lead full and productive lives. Bipolar disorder can disrupt a person’s relationships with loved ones and cause difficulty in working or going to school. Bipolar disorder is a category that includes three different diagnoses: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymic disorder.


A manic episode is a period of at least one week when a person is extremely high-spirited or irritable most of the day for most days, possesses more energy than usual, and experiences at least three of the following changes in behavior:

    -Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feeling energetic despite significantly less sleep than usual

    -Increased or faster speech

    -Uncontrollable racing thoughts or quickly changing ideas or topics when speaking

    -Distractibility

    -Increased activity (e.g., restlessness, working on several projects at once)

    -Increased risky behavior (e.g., reckless driving, spending sprees)

    -These behaviors must represent a change from the person’s usual behavior and be clear to friends and family. 

Symptoms must be severe enough to cause dysfunction in work, family, or social activities and responsibilities. Symptoms of a manic episode commonly require a person to receive hospital care to stay safe.


Some people experiencing manic episodes also experience disorganized thinking, false beliefs, and/or hallucinations, known as psychotic features.


A hypomanic episode is characterized by less severe manic symptoms that need to last only four days in a row rather than a week. Hypomanic symptoms do not lead to the major problems in daily functioning that manic symptoms commonly cause.


Bipolar disorder symptoms commonly improve with treatment. Medication is the cornerstone of bipolar disorder treatment, though talk therapy (psychotherapy) can help many patients learn about their illness and adhere to medications, preventing future mood episodes.