Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, and ability to function. These are not the normal ups and downs; the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.

About 5.7 million American adults or about 2.6 percent of the population age 18 and older in any given year have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop them late in life. Bipolar disorder is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. It is a long-term illness that requires careful management throughout the person's life.

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings from overly high and, or, irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

Bipolar Disorder. Last reviewed 12/31/1969
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