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Bipolar Disorder

What is bipolar disorder? Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme shifts in mood. Symptoms can include an extremely elevated mood called mania. They can also include episodes of depression. Bipolar disorder is also known as bipolar disease or manic depression. People with bipolar disorder may have trouble managing everyday life tasks at school or work, or maintaining relationships. There’s no cure, but there are many treatment options available that can help to manage the symptoms. Bipolar disorder isn’t a rare brain disorder. In fact, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults — or about 5 million people — have been diagnosed with it. The average age when people with bipolar disorder begin to show symptoms is 25 years old. Depression caused by bipolar disorder lasts at least two weeks. A high (manic) episode can last for several days or weeks. Some people will experience episodes of changes in mood several times a year, while others may experience them only rarely. Here’s what having bipolar disorder feels like for some people. Bipolar disorder symptoms There are three main symptoms that can occur with bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, and depression. While experiencing mania, a person with bipolar disorder may feel an emotional high. They can feel excited, impulsive, euphoric, and full of energy. During manic episodes, they may also engage in behavior such as:

Hypomania is generally associated with bipolar II disorder. It’s similar to mania, but it’s not as severe. Unlike mania, hypomania may not result in any trouble at work, school, or in social relationships. However, people with hypomania still notice changes in their moods. During an episode of depression you may experience:

Although it’s not a rare condition, bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose because of its varied symptoms. Bipolar disorder symptoms in women Men and women are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in equal numbers. However, the main symptoms of the disorder may be different between the two genders. In many cases, a woman with bipolar disorder may:

  • be diagnosed later in life, in her 20s or 30s

  • have milder episodes of mania

  • experience more depressive episodes than manic episodes

  • have four or more episodes of mania and depression in a year, which is called rapid cycling

  • experience other conditions at the same time, including thyroid disease, obesity, anxiety disorders, and migraines

  • have a higher lifetime risk of

  • alcohol use disorder

Women with bipolar disorder may also relapse more often. This is believed to be caused by hormonal changes related to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. If you’re a woman and think you may have bipolar disorder, it’s important for you to get the facts. Here’s what you need to know about bipolar disorder in men. Bipolar disorder symptoms in men and women both experience common symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, men may experience symptoms differently than women. Men with bipolar disorder may:

  • be diagnosed earlier in life

  • experience more severe episodes, especially manic episodes

  • have substance abuse issues

  • act out during manic episodes

Men with bipolar disorder are less likely than women to seek medical care on their own. They’re also more likely to die by suicide. Types of bipolar disorder There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. Bipolar I Bipolar I is defined by the appearance of at least one manic episode. You may experience hypomanic or major depressive episodes before and after the manic episode. This type of bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. Bipolar II People with this type of bipolar disorder experience one major depressive episode that lasts at least two weeks. They also have at least one hypomanic episode that lasts about four days. This type of bipolar disorder is thought to be more common in women. Cyclothymia People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania and depression. These symptoms are shorter and less severe than the mania and depression caused by bipolar I or bipolar II disorder. Most people with this condition only experience a month or two at a time where their moods are stable. When discussing your diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell you what kind of bipolar disorder you have. Bipolar disorder in children Diagnosing bipolar disorder in children is controversial. This is large because children don’t always display the same bipolar disorder symptoms as adults. Their moods and behaviors may also not follow the standards doctors use to diagnose the disorder in adults. Many bipolar disorder symptoms that occur in children also overlap with symptoms from a range of other disorders that can occur in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, in the last few decades, doctors and mental health professionals have come to recognize the condition in children. A diagnosis can help children get treatment, but reaching a diagnosis may take many weeks or months. Your child may need to seek special care from a professional trained to treat children with mental health issues. Like adults, children with bipolar disorder experience episodes of elevated mood. They can appear very happy and show signs of excitable behavior. These periods are then followed by depression. While all children experience mood changes, changes caused by bipolar disorder are very pronounced. They’re also usually more extreme than a child’s typical change in mood. Manic symptoms in children Symptoms of a child’s manic episode caused by bipolar disorder can include:

  • acting very silly and feeling overly happy

  • talking fast and rapidly changing subjects

  • having trouble focusing or concentrating

  • doing risky things or experimenting with risky behaviors

  • having a very short temper that leads quickly to outbursts of anger

  • having trouble sleeping and not feeling tired after sleep loss

Depressive symptoms in children Symptoms of a child’s depressive episode caused by bipolar disorder can include:

  • moping around or acting very sad

  • sleeping too much or too little

  • having little energy for normal activities or showing no signs of interest in anything

  • complaining about not feeling well, including having frequent headaches or stomachaches

  • experiencing feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • eating too little or too much

  • thinking about death and possibly suicide

Other possible diagnoses Some of the behavior issues you may witness in your child could be the result of another condition. ADHD and other behavior disorders can occur in children with bipolar disorder. Work with your child’s doctor to document your child’s unusual behaviors, which will help lead to a diagnosis. Finding the correct diagnosis can help your child’s doctor determine treatments that can help your child live a healthy life. Bipolar disorder in teens Angst-filled behavior is nothing new to the average parent of a teenager. The shifts in hormones, plus the life changes that come with puberty, can make even the most well-behaved teen seem a little upset or overly emotional from time to time. However, some teenage changes in mood may be the result of a more serious condition, such as bipolar disorder. A bipolar disorder diagnosis is most common during the late teens and early adult years. For teenagers, the more common symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • being very happy

  • “acting out” or misbehaving

  • taking part in risky behaviors

  • abusing substances

  • thinking about sex more than usual

  • becoming overly sexual or sexually active

  • having trouble sleeping but not showing signs of fatigue or being tired

  • having a very short temper

  • having trouble staying focused, or being easily distracted

For teenagers, the more common symptoms of a depressive episode include:

  • sleeping a lot or too little

  • eating too much or too little

  • feeling very sad and showing little excitability

  • withdrawing from activities and friends

  • thinking about death and suicide

Diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder can help teens live healthy life. Learn more @

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