Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a complex brain disorder that involves sudden mood shifts from high to low. These dramatic mood swings, known as episodes, are referred to as stages of mania and depression. Bipolar disorder affects over five million Americans. It most frequently develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, but may begin during childhood as well.
Episodes of bipolar disorder can last for days, weeks or months. Symptoms of each phase may be mild or severe but can include:
- Increased energy
- Aggressive behavior
- Decreased need for sleep
- Increased sexual drive
- Inability to concentrate
- Change in appetite
- Loss of interest
- Suicidal thoughts
The severity and frequency of these symptoms are classified into different types of bipolar disorder. The cause of bipolar disorder is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors.
If left untreated, bipolar disorder will worsen and can eventually lead to suicide. It is important to see your doctor if you experience symptoms, especially suicidal thoughts. Treatment usually includes mood stabilizing, antidepressant or anti-seizure medications and psychotherapy. Since the disorder is recurring, long-term treatment is usually recommended to maintain a balanced mood. Long-term treatment can help make this potentially life-threatening disease manageable. Talk to your doctor at the first sign of symptoms to help treat bipolar disorder.