Bipolar disorder is an episodic illness. This means that the
mood swings come and go with discrete beginnings and ends. Mood swings can be very long and seem like they go on forever, but they do end at some point.
For example, a full blown manic episode will eventually burn itself out after a period of time. And even the most severe depression episode eventually lifts.
The stability in between mood swings is called euthymia.
My former partner Ivan was in the hospital for two months in a manic/psychotic episode. He still deals with a lot of depression, but he went twelve years between manic episodes.
Do all people have euthymia?
The basic definition of episodic means that a person has to have a break from mood swings once in awhile. There will always be exceptions with any illness, but it's a given that people with bipolar have euthymia.
My friend Sherri was in a manic/psychotic episode for three years. Medications kept her out of the hospital, but her symptoms were always present. The episode ended when she finally found the right medication. She has now been mania and psychosis free for two years. This means she is in an euthymic period.
I have a very different form of the illness called ultra rapid
cycling bipolar disorder II. My mood swings are definitely episodic in that they have a super clear beginning, middle and end, but they are constant. Up to four or five a day. Euthymia is fleeting for my type of bipolar. But it's there!
There is always hope because bipolar disorder episodes end
eventually. They are not permanent. A strong management plan can help them end as quickly as possible and then keep them from coming back.
Bipolar disorder is not fun for anyone, but it is a positive
that it’s episodic and not a constant.