What is Bipolar Disorder?
The National Institute of Mental Health defines bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, as 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. They can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. Bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. Bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood. It is often not recognized as an illness, and people may suffer for years before it is properly diagnosed and treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life. 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.
Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:
♦  Increased energy, activity, and restlessness 
♦  Extreme irritability
♦  Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood        
♦  Little sleep needed
♦  Distractibility, can’t concentrate well                            
♦  Poor judgment
♦  Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers      
♦  Spending sprees
♦  Increased sexual drive                                                    
♦  Abuse of drugs
♦  Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior
♦  Denial that anything is wrong
♦  Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another
Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:
♦  Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood
♦  Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
♦  Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
♦  Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
♦  Difficulty concentrating
♦  Restlessness or irritability
♦  Sleeping too much, or can’t sleep
♦  Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
♦  Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down”
♦  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