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

RUSH Prevention Program Helping Children of Bipolar Parents

Children may be more sensitive to stress in their environment.

Are Creativity and Madness Written Together in Your Genes?

By Garth Sundem on May 04, 2016 in Brain Trust
A study in Nature Neuroscience shows that creativity and madness may share the same genetic underpinnings.

Bipolar Treatment Is More Than Just Tools To Lower Intensity

By Tom Wootton on April 30, 2016 in Bipolar Advantage
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

A discussion of the important role of bipolar support group participation as an adjunct to both individual therapy and psychopharmacology.

Judith Schlesinger on Creative Genius and the Insanity Hoax

The future of mental health interview series continues with Judith Schlesinger on creative genius and The Insanity Hoax.

The Problem With Contemporary Psychiatric Diagnosis

Patients today get stained by the specious medical diagnoses of biological psychiatry.
stephen seager

"Crazy: A Creative and Personal Look at Mental Illness"

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

Artists do not have more mental problems. Their talents express their profound perceptions; they stimulate our own ideas and emotions; they ennoble us and enhance our lives.

Astronomy and Psychiatry: Brain Dust and Cosmic Dust

Let's clean up some conclusions in recent psychiatric studies of the brain
Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

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?

If Depression Were an Infection

By Ralph Ryback M.D. on February 08, 2016 in The Truisms of Wellness
What if depression were an infection? Although most of us focus on the psychological symptoms associated with depression, these physical symptoms are no less real.

A Novel Trial for Pediatric Bipolar Disorder

The failure of children diagnosed with bipolar disorder to respond to lamotrigine as adolescents and adults...

An Explanation for Trump's Appeal

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on January 29, 2016 in Fighting Fear
An examination of those aspects of personality and behavior that have led to Donald Trump's success. A comparison to an incident long ago that also had political implications.

Eggshell Relationships

By Joe Navarro M.A. on January 28, 2016 in Spycatcher
How can you recognize an emotionally unstable personality before he or she harms you?

How Do We Measure Success In Treating Bipolar Disorder?

By Tom Wootton on January 25, 2016 in Bipolar Advantage
Using remission as the yardstick for measuring success has never produced results comparable to the ones associated with functionality assessments.

Is Bipolar Still In Disorder Really The Best We Can Do?

By Tom Wootton on January 14, 2016 in Bipolar Advantage
Allowing such statements to go unchallenged not only harms the person saying them but also stigmatizes others into believing that the best we can do is to continue to suffer.
Photo by Tony Marsh, used with permission from Jo McFarlane

Jo McFarlane, Survivor!

Jo's story and her poetry reveal the essential spiritual truth that, however dark and difficult life becomes, hope for a future of love and joy is never to be denied.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist

By Ralph Ryback M.D. on January 04, 2016 in The Truisms of Wellness
Psychiatrists and psychologists are both involved in therapy, but often the general public mixes up these two professions.

The Missing Piece in the Treatment of Bipolar Depression

By Russ Federman Ph.D., A.B.P.P. on January 02, 2016 in Bipolar You
Importance of lessening the downward pull of emotionally painful issues in relation to bipolar depression

World's Best and Worst Places To Be Mentally Ill

By Allen J Frances M.D. on December 28, 2015 in Saving Normal
We have discharged our mentally ill from hospitals, but neglected them so badly in the community that many wind up in prison dungeons or dumped on the streets.
Jamie Hack/Freeimages.com

You Are Not Your Mental Illness

If there was a bruise on your arm, you wouldn't go around calling yourself a bruise.

Eat Yourself Happy

By Carolyn C. Ross M.D., M.P.H. on November 29, 2015 in Real Healing
What does food have to do with depression or anxiety? A lot. Paying attention to your diet not only promotes good physical health but can also improve your mental health.

How Depression Prepared Me For A Death In The Family

By Tom Wootton on November 17, 2015 in Bipolar Advantage
If I did not understand how to function during depression or, worse yet, still clung to the notion that it is not possible, I would have been a burden to my family instead of an asset. Most people fear they will break down and become a burden on those around them or that their bipolar loved ones will break down and add to the already difficult situation.

Creativity and Psychiatric Illnesses

Small effects of many genes may increase the risk of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Some of these same genes may also contribute to creativity. Increased creativity may be helpful in terms of human evolution.