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What is bipolar disorder?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes episodes of extreme highs and lows. The lows of depression may cause you to feel hopeless, sad, or even suicidal. The highs of mania may create extraordinary energy and optimism that can lead to risky behavior. Some people experience mixed states, which are episodes of depression and mania that occur at the same time.

Bipolar disorder is a long-term condition that needs uninterrupted treatment. The treatment options are often very effective.

The term "bipolar" refers to the two extremes, or poles, that people with this condition experience. Bipolar disorder may also be known as manic-depressive disorder.

Mood disorders characterized by cycles between extreme highs and extreme lows are called bipolar disorders. Bipolar disorders are episodic conditions marked by depression punctuated by at least one episode of mania (exceptionally extreme highs) or hypomania (moderately extreme highs).

Bouncing between the poles of high-high (mania) and low-low (depression) is the very essence of the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder contrasts with mild-to-moderate depression and major depression, disorders characterized by deep lows without intervening manic highs.

Bipolar is a very commonly misdiagnosed condition, usually because patients seek treatment when they are depressed only. Be sure to tell your doctor about your anxiety and manic symptoms. Some medications you can ask your new doctor about are lithium and Depakote. Lamictal is a newer agent and is used in bipolar as well.  It is a good idea to seek a second opinion if you don't feel you are getting the treatment you need.
Bipolar Disorder, once commonly known as manic-depressive illness, is characterised by mood swings from mania to depression, punctuated by periods of stable mood in between where one is free of these symptoms. It is a disorder of the brain thought to be caused by a combination of changes in brain functioning, genetics, and a person's environment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.