What it is: a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day activities. These moods will range from extremely “up,” elated, irritable and energized periods (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes).
- Experiencing periods of unusually intense emotion, known as “mood episodes”
- Changes in sleep patterns and activity levels
- Uncharacteristic behaviors
- People having a manic episode may:
– Feel “jumpy” or “wired”
– Have decreased need for sleep
– Feel very elated and touchy
– Lose appetite and need for sleep
– Do risky things that show poor judgement
- People having a depressive episode may:
– Have trouble concentrating or making decisions
– Feel slowed down or restless
– Feel unable to do even simple things
– Feel hopeless or worthless, think about death or suicide
Causes: Most experts agree that there is no single cause for bi-polar disorder, and it is instead attributed to many factors. These include having a specific brain structure in addition to family history. Research shows that if a person has a parent or sibling with the disorder, they have an increased chance of having the disorder themselves.
- Medications such as mood stabilizers and “atypical” psychotics
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation
When to seek a doctor: Despite the mood swings, people with bipolar disorder often don’t recognize how much their emotional instability disrupts their lives and the lives of their loved ones and don’t get the treatment they need. And if you’re like some people with bipolar disorder, you may enjoy the feelings of euphoria and cycles of heightened productivity. However, the periods of euphoria are always followed by emotional crashes that can leave you depressed and worn out – and perhaps in financial, legal, or relationship trouble. If you have any symptoms of mania or depression, see your doctor or mental health professional.
When to seek emergency help: Suicidal thoughts and behavior are common among people with bipolar disorder. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, go to an emergency room, or confide in a trusted relative or friend. Or call a suicide hotline number — in the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If you have a loved one who is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, make sure someone stays with that person. Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Or, if you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.