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What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder (previously called manic depressive disorder) is defined by at least one manic and one depressive occurrence either currently or in the past. It is commonly understood as the "mood swing" disorder and individuals often cycle between their normal state, depression and mania.

Though people diagnosed with bipolar do not typically swing between extremes within minutes or hours or days. Typically a depressed or manic state lasts from a week to several months. To be diagnosed with bipolar, the symptoms must be extreme enough to interfere with daily life, relationships, or one's job.

The manic state of bipolar is characterized by an elevated mood, which is feeling high or on top of the world. Symptoms of mania include increased self esteem or grandiosity, extreme talkativeness or rapid speech, decreased sleep but still feeling energetic, racing thoughts, and distractibility. Other symptoms of a manic episode are irritability, angry outbursts, constant activity, increased interest in sex, agitation, poor decision-making, impulsivity, or risk-taking behavior.

The symptoms of depression are sadness, frequent crying, loss of interest, appetite or sleep changes, agitation or lethargy, decreased motivation and energy, and feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness or loneliness. Also a depressed person may have low self esteem, feelings of excessive guilt, poor concentration, indecisiveness, repeated dark thoughts, or thoughts of suicide.

If you think that you or someone you know might have bipolar, then check with your family doctor, a therapist or psychiatrist. If you are considering suicide, then call 911, visit the emergency room, or use a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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