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What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Posted by Kelly Chung on January 11, 2009

Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic-depressive illness, is a condition that affects more than two million Americans. People who have this illness tend to experience extreme mood swings, along with other specific symptoms and behaviors. These mood swings or “episodes” can take three forms: manic episodes, depressive episodes, or “mixed” episodes. The symptoms of a manic episode often include elevated mood (feeling extremely happy), being extremely irritable and anxious, talking too fast and too much, and having an unusual increase in energy and a reduced need for sleep. It’s also very common for someone to act impulsively during a manic episode.

Common signs and symptoms of mania include:
* Feeling unusually “high” and optimistic OR extremely irritable
* Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about one’s abilities or powers
* Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic
* Talking so rapidly that others can’t keep up
* Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next
* Highly distractible, unable to concentrate
* Impaired judgment and impulsiveness
* Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences
* Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)

Here are the types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I disorder involves episodes of severe mood swings, from mania to depression.
Bipolar II disorder is a milder form, involving milder episodes of hypomania that alternate with depression.

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