(Manic-Depressive Illness; Manic Depression; Manic Disorder; Manic Affective Disorder)
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition marked by extreme swings in mood, energy, and the ability to function. The mood changes of bipolar disorder are more dramatic than normal ups and downs. They can hurt relationships and cause poor job or school performance.
The two mood extremes of bipolar disorder are mania and depression. In mania, one of the defining symptoms is an increase in energy and a decreased need for sleep. The mood may be overly happy or irritable. In depression, a down mood with fatigue takes over, often accompanied by irritability.
There are 4 forms of this condition:
The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. This condition tends to run in families. Specific genes may play a role. It is most likely many different genes that act together.
Risk Factors TOP
A family history of the disorder increases your chance of developing it. Tell your doctor if you have a family member with bipolar disorder.
Mania may cause:
Depression may cause:
Severe episodes of mania or depression may sometimes be associated with psychotic symptoms, such as:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. In some cases, lab tests are ordered to rule out other causes of your symptoms. You may be referred to a mental health specialist. Diagnosis of bipolar disorder is based on:
Mania is diagnosed if:
A depressive episode is diagnosed if:
Talk with your medical team about the best plan for you. Options may include one or more of the following:
The primary treatment is with medications called mood stabilizers. There are many different types and combinations of medications, which must be tailored by your doctor to target your symptoms. Examples of common medications used to treat bipolar disorder include:
The plan is based on the pattern of the illness. Treatment may need to be continued indefinitely. It should prevent significant mood swings.
Psychotherapy is often an integral component of a comprehensive treatment plan. Therapy may include:
Electroconvulsive Therapy TOP
Electroconvulsive therapy may be effective when medications fail. It can be used for both mania and depression.
There are no current guidelines to prevent bipolar disorder. Taking your daily medications and following your treatment plan can help prevent future mood swings.
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Mood Disorders Society of Canada
Bipolar disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114738/Bipolar-disorder. Updated July 29, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Bipolar disorder fact sheet. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at:
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Updated April 2013. Accessed September 3, 2014.
Bipolar disorder in adults. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at:
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Updated 2012. Accessed September 3, 2014.
4/29/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114738/Bipolar-disorder: Nivoli AM, Colom F, Murru A, et al. New treatment guidelines for acute bipolar depression: a systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2011;129(1-3):14-26.
7/13/2016 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114738/Bipolar-disorder: Nivoli AM, Colom F, Murru A, et al. New treatment guidelines for acute bipolar depression: a systematic review. J Affect Disord. 2011;129(1-3):14-26.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 7/13/2016