Bipolar disorder (also known as "manic depression") is a disorder that is often not recognized or misdiagnosed as simply depression by the patient, relatives, friends -- and even physicians. An early sign of bipolar disorder may be hypomania -- a state in which the person shows a high level of energy, excessive moodiness or irritability, and impulsive or reckless behavior. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it. Thus, even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings, the individual often will deny that anything is wrong.
In its early stages, bipolar disorder may masquerade as a problem other than mental illness. For example, it may first appear as alcohol or drug abuse, or poor school or work performance.
One of the usual differential diagnoses for bipolar disorder is that the symptoms (listed below) are not better accounted for by Schizoaffective Disorder and is not superimposed on Schizophrenia, Schizophreniform Disorder, Delusional Disorder, or Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.
And as with nearly all mental disorder diagnoses, the symptoms of manic depression must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Symptoms also can not be the result of substance use or abuse (e.g., alcohol, drugs, medications) or caused by a general medical condition.
Specific symptoms of the various types of bipolar disorder:
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Feb 2013
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