What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, also known as bipolar affective disorder, manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a psychiatric disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. When a person suffers from bipolar disorder, they tend to experience these two extremes:
Manic Episodes: characterized by excessive excitement, energy or enthusiasm.
Depressive Episodes: marked by a loss of interest in everyday life, anxiety, guilt and hopelessness.
The effects and symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe and debilitating, often contributing to worsening symptoms of addiction or eating disorders in those with co-occuring disorders. Bipolar episodes are not synonymous with the normal mood swings that everyone generally experiences.
The Two Extreme States:
Behavioral changes such as the following, indicate someone with bipolar disorder experiencing a manic phase or episode:
The symptoms of a depressive phase pose a stark contrast compared to the preceding manic episode:
Psychosis may be experienced by a person undergoing bipolar disorder, during particularly severe episodes of either mania or depression. Psychosis is defined by a state of detachment from reality, which may either be temporary or prolonged. Bipolar psychosis is characterized by two types of symptoms:
The Most Common Forms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar I Disorder: mainly defined by manic or mixed episodes that last at least a week, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, the person also has depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks. The symptoms of mania or depression are a major change from the person’s normal state.
Bipolar II Disorder: defined by a pattern of depressive episodes shifting back and forth with hypomanic episodes or low intensity mania, but no full-blown manic or mixed episodes.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (BP-NOS): diagnosed when a person has symptoms of the illness that do not meet diagnostic criteria for either Bipolar I or II. The symptoms might not last long enough, or the person may have too few symptoms, to be diagnosed with Bipolar I or II. However, the symptoms are clearly out of the normal range of behavior expected for the person.
Cyclothymia: also known as Cyclothymic Disorder, it is a mild form of Bipolar Disorder. People who have Cyclothymia have episodes of alternating with mild depression for at least two years. However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for any other type of Bipolar Disorder.