This used to be called Manic-Depressive Disorder. Bipolar patients go back & forth between Depression & Mania. See our link for a discussion of the former. Mania consists of feeling abnormally high, full of energy, or irritable, with at least 3 symptoms of:
- Feeling more important or special than everyone else (grandiose)
- Hardly sleeping, but not feeling tired
- Talking constantly
- Racing thoughts
- Easily distracted
- Bouncing around among countless activities or tasks, usually never completing any
- Uncontrolled sprees of foolishly wasting money or of promiscuous sex
Bipolar disorder can be primarily depression, with very occasional episodes of mania (a week is required at some point to confirm the diagnosis). More dangerously, a minority of patients “rapid-cycle,” when their moods go back and forth a few weeks one, then the other, etc. Some people develop psychoses. The feared complication of Bipolar Disorder is suicide.
The condition is common, affecting up to 2% of people in the US. It usually begins during the late teenage years. There is a strong genetic (hereditary) aspect, since among identical twins who are bipolar, 50% to 70% of the siblings also are. The disease often runs in families — if one parent is bipolar, the risk for a child is around 10%, and around 40% if both parents are.
There are a variety of medications to treat bipolar disorder. The tragedy is when patients stop taking them. It’s not uncommon for bipolar patients to turn to street drugs, especially cocaine or amphetamines, which they perceive as to help their moods.