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Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood disorder. It causes cycles of extreme mood changes that go beyond normal ups and downs. It affects men and women equally, often starting in the teens or early adulthood.

The cycles of mood changes include periods of mania, during which you will feel joyful, energized, and excited. These are followed by periods of feeling sad and depressed. Generally, women tend to have more symptoms of depression than of mania.

Depression affects your body, mood, and thoughts. It also affects how you eat and sleep, think about things, and feel about yourself. It’s not the same as being unhappy or in a blue mood. It’s not a sign of weakness or a condition that can be willed away. Treatment is often needed and is key to recovery.

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Symptoms may look different in each person. The most common include:

Depressive Symptoms

  • Constant sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed, including sex
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Inability to focus, think, or make decisions
  • Low energy, tiredness, or being slowed down
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Feeling extreme guilt
  • Changes in eating habits, or eating too much or not enough
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as fitful sleep, inability to sleep, waking up very early, or sleeping too much
  • Headaches, digestive problems, or chronic pain
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide, wishing to die, or attempting suicide (If you have suicidal thoughts, seek help right away. Call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-TALK (8255). You will be connected to trained mental health crisis services. An online chat choice is also available. This service is free and available 24/7.)

Manic Symptoms

  • Very inflated self-esteem
  • Need for less rest and sleep
  • Easily distracted or irritable
  • Racing thoughts
  • Physical agitation
  • Risky, aggressive, or destructive behavior
  • Talking a lot and talking fast
  • Very high or euphoric feelings (feeling overly happy)
  • Increased sex drive
  • Increased energy
  • Unusual poor judgment (ex: buying sprees, drug or alcohol abuse, risky sexual behavior)
  • Increased denial

What Causes Bipolar Disorder? 

Experts don't know what causes bipolar disorder. They agree that many factors seem to play a role. This includes environmental, mental health, and genetic factors.

Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. Researchers are still trying to find genes that may be linked to it.

UR Medicine's Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

How is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

It’s important to see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis. They will ask about your health history, your symptom history, and your current symptoms. Your healthcare provider will perform a careful medical evaluation, and an experienced mental health provider will perform a mental health exam.

How is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for bipolar disorder. However, treatment works well for many people. You can lead a productive life with ongoing medical care, medicine management, psychological support, family and social support, and a plan for self-care.

Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Medicine—many medications are available; they often take four to six weeks to work their best
  • Therapy—most often cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)—may be used in people with severe, life-threatening depression that has not responded to medications

In most cases, you will need consistent, long-term treatment to stabilize the mood swings and provide the support needed to manage bipolar disorder.

What Sets Us Apart?

We provide care to patients with mental health conditions using a respectful, team-based approach. We integrate clinical care, teaching, and research into our treatment. We also work actively with the patient, their support system, and community care providers to develop the best plan possible for each individual.

The team’s leadership focuses on developing innovative systems for mental health care. As part of an academic medical center, we help educate the next generation of mental health professionals. We are a key training site for several multidisciplinary programs, including psychiatry fellowship programs and internship and post-doctorate training in clinical psychology.

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