Also known as manic-depressive disorder, bipolar disorder results in dramatic mood swings in the sufferer. This psychological disorder is characterized by perpetual shifts between manic and depressive phases. During the manic phase, one may feel unnaturally confident, energetic, and out of control. The depressive phase shares many symptoms with major depression.
In a given year approximately one percent of the population will experience bipolar disorder, according to NIMH. The disorder often begins in adolescence or young adulthood. Bipolar is the only depressive disorder that is not heavily skewed toward women.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
- Little sleep, plenty of energy
- Exaggerated optimism, excessive self-confidence, euphoric mood
- Engaging in wreckless, inappropriate behavior
- Promiscuity, sexual aggression
- Distractible, unable to concentrate, too many ideas
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Increased irritability
- Manic phase lasts at least one week
- Deep despair, suicidal thoughts or actions
- Anger or fear due to uncontrollable mood swings
- Feelings of guilt, low self-esteem
- Difficulty falling asleep, restless sleeping, over-sleeping
- Diminished sex drive
- Loss of interest in formerly-enjoyed activities
- Eating disorders, unexpected weight gain or loss
- Physical pains not associated with a known illness
Differences by Gender
Bipolar in Women
Women experience bipolar disorder with roughly the same frequency as men. Women, however, often have more pronounced depressive phrases rather than manic phases. Women are more likely to rapidly cycle between phases; three times as often as men, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Bipolar in Men
Men often experience more pronounced manic phases than women. Early onset is also more associated with males, as is substance abuse.
Bipolar by Age Group
The onset of bipolar disorder occurs most often in adolescence and young adulthood. Onset after age 40 is less common, though drug or alcohol abuse is thought to be associated with late-onset bipolar disorder. Other research suggests that individuals with a late onset may simply not have had the potential triggers or risk factors associated with early onset, such as high stress and a family history of depressive illness.
Diagnosis of bipolar disorder in children and young adolescents is possible, and may be associated with disruptive behavior disorders such as ADHD. Bipolar with a childhood onset typically presents rapid cycling and may be a more severe form of the illness.
Books on Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What You and Your Family Need to Know
"Offers a wealth of material that can help demystify the disorder. Miklowitz methodically explains the disease, its symptoms and diagnosis, moves on to cogent explanations of its possible causes, then spends most of the book offering advice on how to manage it."
In Small Doses: A Memoir about Accepting and Living with Bipolar Disorder
"Recommended for anyone who has just been diagnosed, or to those who are interested in learning about the mental illness. It's a great resource that expresses the challenges of day-to-day living from a personal account."