(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. Bipolar disorder can be treated. Contact your doctor if you think you may have this condition.
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 four 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.
Symptoms of mania include:
Symptoms of depression include:
Severe episodes of mania or depression may sometimes be associated with psychotic symptoms, such as:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. 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 doctor about the best plan for you.
The primary treatment is with medicines called mood stabilizers. There are many different types and combinations of medicines, which must be tailored by your doctor to target your symptoms. Examples of common medicines 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 may be effective when medicines fail. It can be used for both mania and depression.
There are no guidelines for preventing bipolar disorder. Taking your daily medicine and following your treatment plan can help prevent future mood swings.
The Balanced Mind Foundation
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
National Institute of Mental Health
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Mood Disorder Association of Canada
Bipolar disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/ . Updated June 21, 2012. Accessed August 23, 2012.
Bipolar disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at: http://www.nami.or... . Updated 2006. Accessed August 23, 2012.
Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.ni... . Updated 2008. Accessed August 23, 2012.
4/29/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/ : 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 March 2013 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 3/15/2013