Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious disorder of the brain. It may severely disrupt your life. At times, it may cause you and your loved ones great pain. But there is hope. Although there is no cure, treatment can help control your symptoms. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. He or she can offer guidance and support.

What causes bipolar disorder?

The exact causes of bipolar disorder aren’t known. It is known that the disease runs in families. Genes that affect nerve cells in the brain may be inherited, but as yet these genes have not been found.

Who does it affect?

Over 5 million adults in this country have bipolar disorder. Most often, it strikes young adults. It can affect children and older adults as well. Bipolar disorder affects both men and women. It can strike people of all races, cultures, and incomes.

Ups and downs

Bipolar disorder used to be called manic-depressive illness. That is because it causes extreme mood swings. At times the person may feel almost too happy. These times are often followed by great despair. In some cases, both extremes may occur at once. More often, mood shifts back and forth. These mood swings may occur just once in a while. Or they may happen four or more times a year. Without treatment, they will likely recur throughout life.

Manic episodes

During manic episodes of bipolar disorder, you feel like you’re on top of the world. Even the worst news can’t bring you down. You’ll likely feel as if you can do anything. And sometimes you may try. You may take great risks, thinking you can’t be hurt. You may also talk too fast, and your thoughts may race. You may go for days without sleeping. And you might be very active and do a lot of things in a short time. Manic episodes often end in a depression.

Depressive episodes

In depressive episodes, you feel intense sadness and depression. You may also feel worthless, tired, and helpless. Even the things you value most don’t give you pleasure. At times you may want to die. You may even think about taking your own life.



Bipolar disorder is often treated with medications that stabilize moods. They help you feel better by keeping your moods more even, and help prevent future mood swings. Sometimes you may also be prescribed medications that treat depression. All medications can have side effects. If you’re troubled by side effects, tell your health care provider. Changing the dose or type of your medication may help. But don’t stop taking medications until your health care provider tells you. If you do, your symptoms will likely come back.

Talk therapy (psychotherapy)

Talking to a therapist or counselor may be part of your treatment. Having bipolar disorder can make it hard to hold a job or go to school. It can create stress for both you and your loved ones. A therapist can teach you how to cope with bipolar disorder. This can help you lessen manic or depressive episodes, or even prevent them. Your therapist can help you work out problems and heal relationships. He or she can also provide support when you need it most.

Friends and family

Those closest to you may also need support. There are many groups for families of people with bipolar disorder. Learning more about this disorder can help your loved ones cope. It can also help them take an active role in your care.

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Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

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Symptoms and Screenings for Bipolar Disorder

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Causes and Preventions for Bipolar Disorder

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Education and Resources for Bipolar Disorder

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Support groups for Bipolar Disorder

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Learn More about Bipolar Disorder

Vidant Health can connect you to health care professionals to help you understand your condition and guide you through the treatment process. Let’s chat.

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