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.
Research & Statistics
- National Institute of Mental Health: Statistics
Provides prevalence statistics for various mental disorders.
PubMed comprises more than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Citations may include links to full-text content from PubMed Central and publisher web sites.
Locate a Treatment Facility
Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if You Need To Talk To Someone. Dial 911 if you have an Emergency.
There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.
- Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
- Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called cyclothymia)— defined by numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
- Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.
Signs and Symptoms
People with bipolar disorder experience periods of unusually intense emotion, changes in sleep patterns and activity levels, and unusual behaviors. These distinct periods are called “mood episodes.” Mood episodes are drastically different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for the person. Extreme changes in energy, activity, and sleep go along with mood episodes.
If you or someone you know has thoughts of death or suicide, contact a medical professional, clergy member, loved one, friend or hospital emergency room or call 911 immediately.
Many people do not seek medical attention during periods of mania because they feel manic symptoms have a positive impact on them. However, left unchecked, can lead to illegal or life-threatening situations because mania often involves impaired judgment and reckless behavior.
Helping a Friend
One of the most important thing family and friends can do for a person with bipolar disorder is learn about the illness. Often people who are depressed or experiencing mania or mood swings do not recognize the symptoms in themselves. If you are concerned about a friend or family member, help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Never ignore remarks about suicide. Report them to the person's therapist. Do not promise confidentiality if you believe someone is close to suicide. If you think immediate self-harm is possible, contact their doctor or dial 911 immediately. Make sure the person discusses these feelings with his or her doctor.
Source: National Institute of Mental Health