Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. People who have it go through unusual mood changes. They go from very happy, "up," and active to very sad and hopeless, "down," and inactive, and then back again. They often have normal moods in between. The up feeling is called mania. The down feeling is depression.

    Bipolar disorder has nothing to do with the ups and downs we all experience in life; it is much more severe, debilitating, and incapacitating.

    Fortunately, it is treatable, and with proper care and the right medication, patients can perform well at work and academically and lead full, productive lives.

    An estimated 2.9 percent of Americans are diagnosed with bipolar disorder and more than half of all cases start when patients are aged 15-25. Males and females are affected equally.

  • Causes of bipolar disorder

      Most experts agree that bipolar disorder has no single cause. It is more likely the result of many factors acting together:

    • Genetics – some small twin studies have indicated that there is a genetic contribution to bipolar disorder risk. People with a blood relative who has bipolar disorder have a higher risk of developing it themselves.
    • Biological traits – experts say that patients with bipolar disorder often show physical changes in their brains. Nobody is sure why the changes lead to the disorder.
    • Brain-chemical imbalance – neurotransmitter imbalances play a key role in many mood disorders, including bipolar disorder.
    • Hormonal problems – hormonal imbalances might trigger or cause bipolar disorder.
    • Environmental factors – abuse, mental stress, a "significant loss," or some other traumatic event may contribute to bipolar disorder risk.
  • Symptoms of bipolar disorder

      Symptoms during manic/hypo-manic episodes:

    • A feeling of being on top of the world, exhilaration, or euphoria.
    • Over-self-confidence, an inflated sense of self-esteem.
    • The patient's judgment may be impaired.
    • The patient talks a lot, and very rapidly.
    • Thoughts come and go quickly (racing thoughts). Sometimes, bizarre ideas come to the patient's mind, and they are acted upon.
    • In this phase, the individual may be extremely forthcoming, sometimes aggressively so.
    • The individual is more likely to engage in risky behavior, including promiscuity (higher libido), abuse illegal drugs and/or alcohol, and take part in dangerous activities.
    • The patient may squander money.
    • Easily distracted.
    • Missing work or school and/or under performing.
  • Symptoms during depressive episodes:

      Anxiety disorder treatment is typically in the form of psychotherapy and is sometimes combined with medication. Anxiety disorders often occur with other disorders such a substance use disorder, so anxiety disorder treatment often includes the treatment for those disorders as well. Education about mental illness, anxiety disorders in particular, and lifestyle changes are often crucial to the success of anxiety disorder treatment.