Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that disrupts energy levels and causes extreme mood swings ranging from euphoria and happiness to sadness and hopelessness. These episodes can affect everything from behavior and sleep to jugement and the ability to think clearly. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition and episodes can occur rarely or many times a year.
A combination of biological changes in the brain and genetics are the primary factors in the development of bipolar disorder. Additional risk factors include having a parent or sibling with bipolar disorder, trauma, and drug and alcohol abuse. A number of co-occurring conditions, including anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can also worsen symptoms.
Symptoms vary significantly depending on the type of bipolar disorder you are diagnosed with and your age. Bipolar disorder is primarily defined as unpredictable changes in mood and behavior that disrupts quality of life and the lives of loved ones. Times of euphoria are usually followed by a crash that leads to depression and lethargy. Episodes can also impact memory and make it difficult to work or maintain relationships. During episodes of mania, it is not uncommon to have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself. These thoughts should be taken seriously and help is available by calling 911 or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
There is no way to prevent or cure bipolar disorder, but it can be treated with a combination of medications and talk therapy. After diagnosis, being aware of warning signs, limiting drug and alcohol use, and taking medications as directed are all ways to prevent symptoms from developing or worsening into larger episodes.