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Home > Bipolar Disorder > Symptoms
Bipolar Disorder, Once Known as Manic-Depressive Disorder

"Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it; an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide."
"I am fortunate that I have not died from my illness, fortunate in having received the best medical care available, and fortunate in having the friends, colleagues, and family that I do."
Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., An Unquiet Mind, 1995, p. 6.
Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. Bipolar disorder should be regarded as a spectrum of emotions ranging from extreme depression to extreme happiness or mania. The individual can range from being severely depressed, to moderately depressed, to feeling what is usually termed "the blues" when it is short-lived but is termed "dysthymia" when it is chronic. Then comes normal or balanced mood, above which comes hypomania (mild to moderate mania), and then severe mania. For some people symptoms of mania and depression can even occur simultaneously, referred to as a mixed bipolar state. This often includes agitation, trouble sleeping, significant change and appetite, psychosis and suicidal thinking. A person may be very sad and hopeless but feel energized at the same time. The combination of these symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

 
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Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings-from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

Mania
Mania can include any of the following symptoms: increased energy, activity, and restlessness, excessively "high," overly good, and euphoric moods. The individual may become extremely irritable, have racing thoughts and begin talking very fast. The individual may not being able to concentrate, little sleep needed, unrealistic beliefs about one's abilities and powers, poor judgment, going on spending sprees, an increased sexual drive, aggressive behavior, denial that anything is wrong. Possible drug abuse, in particularly cocaine, alcohol and/or sleeping medications may be utilized.

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present. (More symptoms are listed in the section about depression)

A mild to moderate level of mania is referred to as hypomania. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it and may even be associated with good functioning and enhanced productivity. Thus even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder, the person may deny that anything is wrong. Without proper treatment, however, hypomania can become severe mania in some people or can switch into depression.
Depression
Depression can include any of the following symptoms: lasting sadness, anxious, or empty mood, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex, decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being "slowed down", difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions, restlessness or irritability, sleeping too much, or can't sleep, change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain, chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury, thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts, a depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.
Sometimes, severe episodes of mania or depression include symptoms of psychosis (or psychotic symptoms).

Common psychotic symptoms are hallucinations (hearing, seeing, or otherwise sensing the presence of things not actually there) and delusions (false, strongly held beliefs not influenced by logical reasoning or explained by a person's usual cultural concepts). Psychotic symptoms in bipolar disorder tend to reflect the extreme mood state at the time and can also mimic schizophrenia, since many of the psychotic symptoms are similar. Grandiosity, such as believing one is the President or has special powers or wealth, can occur during mania; delusions of guilt or worthlessness, such as believing that one is ruined and penniless or has committed some terrible crime, may appear during depression.

Bipolar disorder may appear to be a problem other than mental illness-for instance, alcohol or drug abuse, poor school or work performance, or strained interpersonal relationships. Such problems in fact may be signs of an underlying mood disorder.
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Bipolar Disorder
Anxiety Disorders
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Obsessive Disorder
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