Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?


Bipolar Disorder is commonly known as “manic depression.”  The disorder is subdivided into Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymia. Individuals with bipolar disorder experience episodes of abnormally elevated mood called a manic episode. These episodes can consist of a decreased need for sleep, excessive energy, rapid speech, and feeling like one’s mind is racing. Individuals can be irritable, engage in confrontations with others or become aggressive, demonstrate poor judgment, and may engage in behaviors that appear out of character, such as spending sprees or risk taking behavior. Risk taking behaviors can include substance use or risky sexual behavior.  A milder version of a manic episode is referred to as “hypomania.”

During a depressive episode, an individual typically suffers from a change in mood (depressed, sad, anxious, empty), feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, pessimism, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, decreased energy; changes in sleep and appetite; difficulty concentrating and remembering, feeling restless or irritable, physical complaints, and thoughts of suicide or death.

To be diagnosed with Bipolar I, the individual must have experienced or currently be experiencing a manic episode. To be diagnosed with Bipolar II, the individual must have experienced or currently be experiencing hypomanic episode and a major depressive episode.

In contrast, Cyclothymic Disorder is characterized by symptoms of a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode. Individuals with this disorder do not meet the full criteria for a hypomanic or depressive episode, though they experience symptoms of them.