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.

Recent posts on Bipolar Disorder

Roger W. Hunter/Bigstock

Staying In the Game

By Susan Noonan MD on July 26, 2017 in View From the Mist
What it takes to not give up - the pros and cons of just staying in the game

Five Tools That Help Women Accept a Mental Health Problem

Wondering what tools help women accept a mental health problem? Women's resilience is manifold.

Allowing the Emotional Painfulness of the Bipolar Diagnosis

A discussion of the importance of allowing the emotional pain that may accompany the bipolar diagnosis.

How to Live Well with Bipolar Disorder

By David Leite on July 11, 2017 in Notes on a Banana
Bipolar disorder can take it toll. These six life strategies can make all the difference.

Psychology, Art, And Body Fluids

By Mark D. Griffiths Ph.D. on July 03, 2017 in In Excess
The use of bodily fluids as part of art works appears to be on the increase. But what is the psychological motivation and is there an association with mental disorders?
Freepik

Ketogenic Diets for Psychiatric Disorders: A New 2017 Review

By Georgia Ede MD on June 30, 2017 in Diagnosis: Diet
What can a low-carbohydrate diet do for your mental health?

Stabilize Your Mood with Food

By Georgia Ede MD on June 28, 2017 in Diagnosis: Diet
Reclaim your emotional health and happiness without medications

Genes, Ions, and Other New Frontiers in Psychiatry

A gene related to ion channels common to many families with mental illness leads us to new discoveries and treatments based on actual brain pathology.

Five Things Not to Say to Someone with Manic Depression

By David Leite on June 14, 2017 in Notes on a Banana
Do your words hurt or help someone with manic depression?

A Child's Illness, a Mother's Anguish

By Amy Tuteur M.D. on May 30, 2017 in Push Back
Bibi, age eleven, has a chemical imbalance of the brain called “bipolar.”
Dora Calott Wang

What's Up with Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is as malignant as cancer, says Robert Post.
Steve Collender at Bigstock.com

Mental Illness Splits Families

By Susan Noonan MD on May 18, 2017 in View From the Mist
Does mental illness in one person create anger and resentment in your other family members?

What's So Hard About Parenting a Child With a Disability?

Have you ever told a parent of a child with a disability to "lighten up"? Perhaps that's not the best approach.

New MRI Study Leads to Roadmap of Bipolar Brains

The largest MRI meta-analysis ever conducted has identified a new "roadmap" of bipolar disorder and how it impacts the brain.
Ocus Focus at bigstock.com

What Do We Lose From Life When Depression Strikes?

By Susan Noonan MD on April 19, 2017 in View From the Mist
Grieve the losses you experience with depression and you will be better able to move on.

Physician Health 101

It is estimated that a doctor a day dies by suicide in the United States. There is a lot we can do to fight this.
Typau at Bigstock.com

Lessons From a Navy Seal

By Susan Noonan MD on April 10, 2017 in View From the Mist
Is making your bed important? The navy seals seem to think so!

Bipolar II or Bipolar Too?

The challenges of accurate symptom identification for those newly diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well as for diagnosed individuals who also struggle with emotional reactivity.
De Visu at Bigstock.com

Adjust Our Sails

By Susan Noonan MD on March 08, 2017 in View From the Mist
When the winds of depression come, you can do nothing or alter your course.

Brain Size in Bipolar Disorder

New study on how the hippocampus is diminished in size with bipolar disorder.

Selling Mental Illness and Its Cure

By Stanton Peele on March 02, 2017 in Addiction in Society
Kay Jamison's presentation of her biography of poet Robert Lowell, "Setting the River on Fire," shortchanged his lived experience and creativity in favor of his mental illness.

Suicidal Behavior in Young People With Bipolar Disorder

Brain abnormalities and suicidality in bipolar disordered young.

Five Tips to Accept a Mental Health Problem

By Lauren Mizock Ph.D. on February 27, 2017 in Cultural Competence
Is something getting in the way of accepting a mental health problem? Check out a few tips from the research field.

3 Strategies to Talk With Kids About Suicidal Thoughts

There is no age limit for suicidal thoughts. Parents and healthcare professionals can learn to talk openly and safely with children about suicide.

What We Can All Learn From the 2017 Super Bowl

By Susan Noonan MD on February 09, 2017 in View From the Mist
An experience in resilience, in not giving up.

Excitation and Inhibition: The Yin and Yang of the Brain

Understanding the balance between neural excitation and inhibition could be key to understanding many brain disorders.
dolgachov/Bigstock.com

The Challenge of Knowing Versus Doing

By Susan Noonan MD on January 17, 2017 in View From the Mist
Knowing about something is much different than being able to do it consistently.

Your Brain on Omega 3: Balancing the O3 to O6 Ratio

By Emily Deans M.D. on January 08, 2017 in Evolutionary Psychiatry
We know that omega 3 supplements and eating fish has the potential to help brain health. Would they work even better if we reduced the amount of omega 6 fatty acids that we eat?

Carrie Fisher: Turning Problems into Punchlines

By Judy Carter on January 06, 2017 in Stress Is a Laughing Matter
Carrie Fisher was able to turn mental illness into a career. In so doing, she helped so many “come out” about their own secrets. Can laughter really help heal mental illness?
kathclick at bigstock.com

The World Lost Carrie Fisher Too Soon

By Susan Noonan MD on December 28, 2016 in View From the Mist
The impact of bipolar disorder on our physical health