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Bipolar Disorder

Also called: manic depression

A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

Very common

More than 3 million US cases per year

  • Treatment can help, but this condition can’t be cured
  • Chronic: can last for years or be lifelong
  • Requires a medical diagnosis
  • Lab tests or imaging not required

The exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, but a combination of genetics, environment, and altered brain structure and chemistry may play a role.

Manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.

Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Ages affected

Symptoms

Requires a medical diagnosis

Manic episodes may include symptoms such as high energy, reduced need for sleep, and loss of touch with reality. Depressive episodes may include symptoms such as low energy, low motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. Mood episodes last days to months at a time and may also be associated with suicidal thoughts.

People may experience:

Mood: mood swings, sadness, elevated mood, anger, anxiety, apathy, apprehension, euphoria, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, or loss of interest or pleasure in activities
Behavioral: irritability, risk taking behaviors, disorganized behavior, aggression, agitation, crying, excess desire for sex, hyperactivity, impulsivity, restlessness, or self-harm
Cognitive: unwanted thoughts, delusion, lack of concentration, racing thoughts, or slowness in activity
Psychological: depression, manic episode, agitated depression, or paranoia
Sleep: difficulty falling asleep or excess sleepiness
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: false belief of superiority, fatigue, or rapid and frenzied speaking

Treatments

Treatment consists of medications and therapy

Treatment is usually lifelong and often involves a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Therapies

Support group: A forum for counseling and sharing experiences among people with a similar condition or goal, such as depression or weight loss.
Cognitive behavioral therapy: A talk therapy focused on modifying negative thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses associated with psychological distress.
Psychoeducation: Education about mental health that also serves to support, validate, and empower patients.
Family therapy: Psychological counseling that helps families resolve conflicts and communicate more effectively.
Psychotherapy: Treatment of mental or behavioral disorders through talk therapy.

Medications

Anticonvulsant: Prevents or controls seizures, relieves pain, and treats symptoms of certain psychiatric disorders.

  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Carbatrol, Epitol, Equetro, and Tegretol XR)
  • Topiramate (Topamax, Qudexy XR, and Trokendi XR)
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal, Lamictal Starter (Blue) Kit, Lamictal XR, Lamictal XR Starter (Blue), and Lamictal ODT Starter (Green))
  • Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal and Oxtellar XR)

Antipsychotic: Reduces or improves the symptoms of certain psychiatric conditions.

  • Haloperidol (Haldol Decanoate)
  • Risperidone (Risperdal, Risperdal Consla, and Risperdal M-TAB)
  • Quetiapine (Seroquel and Seroquel XR)
  • Ziprasidone
  • Olanzapine (Zyprexa, Zyprexa Relprevv, and Zyprexa Zydis)
  • Aripiprazole (Abilify and Abilify Maintena)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI): Eases symptoms of depressed mood and anxiety.

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, and Prozac Weekly)

Supportive care

Hospitalization: A higher level of care whereby patients are closely monitored and may be given medications that would not be available at home.

Specialists

Psychiatrist: Treats mental disorders primarily with medications.
Clinical psychologist: Treats mental disorders primarily with talk therapy.
Primary care provider (PCP): Prevents, diagnoses, and treats diseases.

Consult a doctor for medical advice
Note: The information you see describes what usually happens with a medical condition, but doesn’t apply to everyone. This information isn’t medical advice, so make sure to contact a healthcare provider if you have a medical problem. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or a emergency number immediately.

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