Bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows. People who have bipolar disorderr can have periods in which they feel overly happy and energized and other periods of feeling very sad, hopeless, and sluggish. In between those periods, they usually feel normal. You can think of the highs and the lows as two “poles” of mood, which is why it’s called “bipolar” disorder.
It can be sneaky. Symptoms can defy the expected manic-depressive sequence. Infrequent episodes of mild mania or hypomania can go undetected. Depression can overshadow other aspects of the illness. Sometimes, symptoms of depression and mania can occur at the same time. And substance abuse, if present, can cloud the picture.
Taken together, these factors make bipolar disorderr difficult to diagnose when symptoms are not obvious. A few facts about bipolar disorderr you may not know:
As many as 20% of people complaining of depression to their doctor actually have bipolar disorderr.
About half of people with bipolar disorderr have seen three professionals before being diagnosed correctly.
It takes an average of 10 years for people to enter treatment for bipolar disorderr after symptoms begin. This is caused in part by delays in diagnosis.
Most people with bipolar disorderr have additional psychiatric conditions (such as substance abuse or anxiety) that can make overall diagnoses more challenging.
Bipolar Disorder Types
There are a few types of bipolar disorderr, including:
Bipolar I disorder: With this type, you have extreme erratic behavior, with manic “up” periods that last at least a week or are so severe that you need medical care. There are also usually extreme “down” periods that last at least 2 weeks.
Bipolar II disorder: With this type, you also have erratic highs and lows, but it isn’t as extreme as bipolar I.
Cyclothymic disorder: This type involves periods of manic and depressive behavior that last at least 2 years in adults or 1 year in children and teens. The symptoms aren’t as intense as bipolar disorderr I or bipolar disorderr II.
With any type of bipolar disorder, misuse of drugs and alcohol use can lead to more episodes. Having bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder, known as “dual diagnosis,” requires help from a specialist who can address both issues.
There are several types of bipolar and related disorders. They may include mania or hypomania and depression. Symptoms can cause unpredictable changes in mood and behavior, resulting in significant distress and difficulty in life.
Bipolar I disorder. You’ve had at least one manic episode that may be preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. In some cases, mania may trigger a break from reality (psychosis).
Bipolar II disorder. You’ve had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but you’ve never had a manic episode.
Cyclothymic disorder. You’ve had at least two years — or one year in children and teenagers — of many periods of hypomania symptoms and periods of depressive symptoms (though less severe than major depression).
Other types. These include, for example, bipolar and related disorders induced by certain drugs or alcohol or due to a medical condition, such as Cushing’s disease, multiple sclerosis or stroke.
Bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of bipolar I disorder, but a separate diagnosis. While the manic episodes of bipolar I disorder can be severe and dangerous, individuals with bipolar II disorder can be depressed for longer periods, which can cause significant impairment.