Bipolar disorder, also known by its older name "manic depression," is a mental disorder that is characterized by serious mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder experiences alternating “highs” (what clinicians call “mania“) and “lows” (also known as depression). Both the manic and depressive periods can be brief, from just a few hours to a few days, or longer, lasting up to several weeks or even months. The periods of mania and depression vary from person to person — many people may only experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even be aware that they have bipolar disorder.
A manic episode is characterized by extreme happiness, extreme irritability, hyperactivity, little need for sleep and/or racing thoughts, which may lead to rapid speech. A depressive episode is characterized by extreme sadness, a lack of energy or interest in things, an inability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. On average, someone with bipolar disorder may have up to three years of normal mood between episodes of mania or depression.
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We've compiled this library of bipolar resources for you to explore. We encourage you to take your time with these resources, print out things you'd like to read more carefully, and bring anything you have additional questions about to your family doctor or a mental health professional.
The good news is that bipolar disorder is readily treated nowadays with psychiatric medications and psychotherapy. Don't be put off by the number of things written about bipolar disorder -- because it's a serious mental illness, a lot has been written about it! Read what you need, and leave the rest for another day.
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