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

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Trump's Temperament: Not Narcissistic, But Not Normal

By Nassir Ghaemi M.D., M.P.H. on October 23, 2016 in Mood Swings
Beyond pejoratives terms to scientifically based concepts
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By Susan Noonan MD on October 15, 2016 in View From the Mist
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By Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D. on September 15, 2016 in Brain and Behavior
There are many misconceptions about bipolar disorder, a lifelong disorder characterized by episodes of often persistent, highs, and often persistent, lows.

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By Ralph Ryback M.D. on September 06, 2016 in The Truisms of Wellness
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The Truman Show Delusion

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By Susan Noonan MD on July 09, 2016 in View From the Mist
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Grammy Award-winning singer Macy Gray overcame multiple hurdles, including mental illness and racism, as she built a dynamic and creative career.

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Mental health labels can help us understand our clients, but they can also make us completely miss who they are. Here is a cautionary tale of one girl's difficult road back.

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Better is Not Good Enough: Wellness is the Goal

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By Garth Sundem on May 04, 2016 in Brain Trust
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The brakes-only solutions that are the current standard of care traps everyone in the driveway for the rest of their lives where they live in fear for the next time the brakes fail

Role of a Support Group in Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

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By Eric R. Maisel Ph.D. on April 23, 2016 in Rethinking Mental Health
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Patients today get stained by the specious medical diagnoses of biological psychiatry.
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By Stephen Seager M.D. on April 02, 2016 in BrainTalk
A startling, stunning and creative look at the trials, struggles of suffering from mental illness done by youth for youth

Learning to Be Bipolar Vs Waiting to Crash

By Tom Wootton on March 30, 2016 in Bipolar Advantage
The dominant premise in bipolar circles is to only see bipolar as disordered and advocate attempting to slow it down or stop it as the only solution.

Artistic Creativity and Psychological Distress

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Let's clean up some conclusions in recent psychiatric studies of the brain
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Mental Health Is Important, but What About Mental Illness?

We must help people with brain diseases get the treatments they need because it’s the humane thing to do. If it were your child, would you feel differently?

The Wild Child

By Jeffrey Deitz M.D. on February 24, 2016 in Case Conference
What to do about a child who is out of control? Read about a very difficult case with a very good outcome.

High Functioning Depression, a New Breakthrough

By Tom Wootton on February 23, 2016 in Bipolar Advantage
Some might argue that I am not depressed because I am productive. They believe that the very definition of depression precludes any ability to function at all.

Rob Roberge: Seven Lies I Told Myself About My Addiction

By Jennifer Haupt on February 13, 2016 in One True Thing
After being diagnosed with a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living, drugs, and concussions, Rob Roberge became terrified of losing his identity.

Ups and Downs

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on February 10, 2016 in How To Do Life
A very short story about a person with bipolar and his wife.

Maybe It’s Harder to Kill Yourself Than You Picture

By Peter Toohey Ph.D. on February 09, 2016 in Annals of the Emotions
Is thinking about suicide ever therapeutic?