One textbook definition describes bipolar disorder as a major affective disorder in which an individual alternates between states of deep depression and extreme elation. This is misleading in that bipolar disorder – also known as manic depression or manic-depressive illness – is much more complicated than just alternating between depression and elation.

Bipolar disorder is an illness that consists of alternating periods of elevated moods, called manic episodes, and depression. Mood swings run on a spectrum from mild mania (called hypomania) to more severe, debilitating highs. Periods of mania can last for hours, days, weeks or even months before depression returns.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder:

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.

Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood. It is possible for someone with bipolar disorder to experience a long-lasting period of unstable moods rather than discrete episodes of depression or mania.

A person may be having an episode of bipolar disorder if he or she has a number of manic or depressive symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one or two weeks. Sometimes symptoms are so severe that the person cannot function normally at work, school, or home.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described below:

Symptoms of mania or a manic episode include

Mood Changes:

A long period of feeling “high,” or an overly happy or outgoing mood
Extremely irritable mood, agitation, feeling “jumpy” or “wired.

Behavioral Changes:

  • Talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another, having racing thoughts
    Being easily distracted
  • Increasing goal-directed activities, such as taking on new projects
    Being restless
  • Sleeping little
  • Having an unrealistic belief in one’s abilities
  • Behaving impulsively and taking part in a lot of pleasurable,
    high-risk behaviors, such as spending sprees, impulsive sex, and impulsive business investments
  • Symptoms of depression or a depressive episode include:

    Mood Changes

    A long period of feeling worried or empty
    Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex.

    Behavioral Changes:

  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”
  • Having problems concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
  • Being restless or irritable
  • Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits
  • Thinking of death or suicide, or attempting suicide
  • Causes of Depression:

    About the causes of depression: environment vs. genetics; secondary to other illness; viral; how brain chemistry controls mood.

  • Chronic Pain and Illness
  • Genetics
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Brain Chemistry Imbalance
  • Female Hormonal Imbalance
  • Grief and Loss
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Drugs That Cause Depression