Bipolar disorder (formerly manic depression or manic-depressive disorder) is a type of mental disorder characterized by severe mood swings. One day the sufferer may be manic and have large amounts of energy and vivid emotions. The next day they go into a low or depressive phase. These periods can last up to a few hours, days, or months. Some people swing rapidly from cycle to cycle, while others remain in a cycle for long periods. Long-term care and medication may be required to manage symptoms, along with support from therapists, family, and friends. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, with good quality care, support, and medication compliance, sufferers can live a happy and full life.
One of the main symptoms of bipolar disorder is the cycling of moods or mood swings from low to high and back again. The symptoms vary by which phase the sufferer is in:
Manic episode. During manic episodes, patients may experience extreme happiness, hyperactivity, and get very little sleep. They may have racing thoughts and speech. The person may also seem very irritable. High-risk and impulsive behaviors are common, such as excessive spending, hypersexuality, and unplanned travel. Some people in a manic episode will think they can do a lot of things at one time without feeling tired. They also may have racing thoughts, a decreased need for sleep, and feel like they are incredibly important and powerful.
Depressive episode. During depressive episodes, patients may appear withdrawn, socially isolated, tired, and generally disinterested. They may also feel sad, hopeless and have suicidal thoughts and ideations. They may have trouble concentrating and feel unable to accomplish simple tasks. Other symptoms of a depressive episode are talking very slowly, sleeping too much, and a generalized lack of interest in activities.