Bipolar Disorder
Manic Depression

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a chronically recurring condition involving moods that swing between the highs of mania and the lows of depression.

But that's not quite the whole picture; depression is by far the most pervasive feature of the illness, while the manic phase usually involves a mix of irritability, anger, and depression, with or without euphoria. The elation may manifest as unusual energy and overconfidence, playing out in bouts of overspending or promiscuity.

The disorder most often starts in young adulthood, but also occurs in children and adolescents. Misdiagnosis is common; the condition is typically confused with everything from attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder to schizophrenia to borderline personality disorder.

Biological factors probably create vulnerability to the disorder, and experiences such as sleep deprivation can kick off manic episodes.

While the depression of bipolar disorder can resist treatment, mood swings and recurrences can often be delayed or prevented with a mood stabilizer, on it's own or combined with other drugs. Psychotherapy is an important adjunct to pharmacotherapy, especially for dealing with the work and relationship problems that can accompany the disorder.

Dig Deeper in the Diagnosis Dictionary



Find a nearby specialist for face-to-face help.

Bipolar Disorder Tests

Bipolar Depression Quiz

Are your emotional highs and lows normal?

Depression

Are you suffering from depression?

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.

Psychiatry Blogs

  • ABCs of Child Psychiatry

    Real info about children's mental health
  • Stephen Seager

    BrainTalk

    Treating the criminally insane and further adventures in psychiatry and mental health care
  • Compulsive Acts

    A psychiatrist's tales of ritual and obsession.
  • Teri Woods, M.D.

    Compulsive!

    The behaviors of the compulsive
  • Jean Kim, M.D.

    Culture Shrink

    How mental health influences all that we do
  • Charles F. Zorumski, MD

    Demystifying Psychiatry

    A resource for patients and families
  • Allen Frances, M.D.

    DSM5 in Distress

    The DSM's impact on mental health practice and research
  • Emily Deans, M.D.

    Evolutionary Psychiatry

    The hunt for evolutionary solutions to contemporary mental health problems.