All Topics

Help With Bipolar Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Bipolar disorders are brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. Bipolar disorder is a category that includes three different conditions — bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder.

People with bipolar disorders have extreme and intense emotional states that occur at distinct times, called mood episodes. These mood episodes are categorized as manic, hypomanic or depressive. People with bipolar disorders generally have periods of normal mood as well. Bipolar disorders can be treated, and people with these illnesses can lead full and productive lives.

See more on diagnosis & treatment

  • Nov 06, 2019
Treatments are Available for the So-called Winter Blues

As we move toward winter with shorter daylight hours and falling temperatures, many people begin to feel the cloud of seasonal depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs seasonally, typically in the winter months. SAD is not just the winter blues – SAD is a subtype of major depressive disorder. It can also occur during summer, but it is much less common that time of year.

  • Nov 19, 2018
Managing Holiday Anxiety and Depression

You may be feeling a build-up of anxiety this holiday season. Thoughts of all the events and gatherings with family, coworkers and friends may fill you with anticipation along with a little angst.

  • Jul 27, 2018
Inflammation and Depression: Complicated Connections

Growing evidence shows an association between depression and inflammation. But the connections are complex and not well understood. Understanding these links is important because it could lead to better depression treatment, especially for the many people who don’t respond to traditional treatments.

Upcoming Events
Apr
2020
01
Monthly Webinars to Calm Anxious Minds
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Apr
2020
01
Find campus based events and support
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

Active Minds

Apr
2020
01

Mental Health America

Apr
2020
01

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Apr
2020
01
Family to Family Training – Find a Local Training
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Apr
2020
01
Find a NAMI Family Support Group
  • Wed,  Apr  01 - Thur,  Apr  30

National Alliance on Mental Illness

How quickly does a person with bipolar disorder shift between highs and lows?

It depends. Mood shift frequency varies from person to person. A small number of patients may have many episodes within one day, shifting from mania (an episode where a person is very high-spirited or irritable) to depression. This has been described as “ultra-rapid cycling.” More

Does having one manic episode necessarily mean you will have more and will have depressive episodes?

Not necessarily. Studies have shown that approximately 10 percent of patients have a single episode only. However, the majority of patients have more than one. The number of episodes within a patient’s lifetime varies. Some individuals may have only two or three within their lifetime while others may have the same number within a single year. Frequency of episodes depends on many factors including the natural course of the condition as well as on appropriate treatment. Not taking medication or taking it incorrectly are frequent causes of episode recurrence. More

Can someone with bipolar disorder be treated without medication?

Although it is possible that during the natural course of the illness individual patients may get well without any medication, the challenge is that it is impossible to identify or determine beforehand who those fortunate patients are. Although some patients don’t get well or just have partial response to the best available treatments, on average — and for the vast majority of patients — the benefits of medications outweigh the risks. More

What is a “mixed episode?”

The term “mixed episode” was changed to “mixed features” in the last edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. The new term may apply to either episodes of mania with additional symptoms of depression or the opposite, episodes of depression with additional symptoms of mania. The overall idea is that the presence of both mania and depression can exist at the same time. Symptoms of mania include elated mood, decreased need to sleep or racing thoughts. Symptoms of depression can include depressed mood, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. More

Could my child have bipolar disorder?

It is possible for children to have bipolar disorder. This mental illness occurs in approximately 1 to 3 percent of the general population, and studies have shown that bipolar disorder has a genetic component. However it is also possible for bipolar disorder to appear in someone who has no family history of the disease. More

What can family members do to support a person with bipolar disorder?

Outcomes are always better when there is a strong family support network. Think of bipolar disorder as any other severe medical condition. However, also note that in many severe psychiatric conditions, patients may not be aware that they are ill. They may minimize the severity of their condition. The result of these factors may be that patients will not follow through on their treatment. In very severe cases, there may be instances of a lack of behavioral control where family members may not be able to look after their loved ones. In those cases, assistance from providers or even law enforcement agents may be necessary. More

tohen-expert.jpg

About the Expert:

Mauricio Tohen, M.D., Dr.PH, M.B.A.
Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Chelsea's Story

Chelsea was a 43-year-old married librarian who came to an outpatient mental health clinic with a long history of depression. She described being depressed for a month since she began a new job. She had concerns that her new boss and colleagues thought her work was poor and slow, and that she was not friendly. She had no energy or enthusiasm at home. Instead of playing with her children or talking to her husband, she watched TV for hours, overate and slept long hours.

Read More

Editor's Choice

MAR 29, 2020

Mental health needs to be discussed by families. Keeping illness secret can be dangerous.

NBC News

I grew up in a culture of silence when it came to mental illness. There were rumors that my grandfather had been institutionalized for a brief period after trying to burn down the house. My father knew that my mother took drugs, never realizing she was most likely self-medicating her own mania and depression. Without any conversation about these experiences, I was lost, unaware until much later that mental illness can run in families (although other factors, such as environment, play a role) and that I could have been spared years of grief and misdiagnoses if I had known to be alert to the right risk.

FEB 21, 2020

Even When I’m Psychotic, I’m Still Me

New York Times

When my bipolar disorder caused a break with reality, most everyone in my life disappeared. Last September, I believed my brain was on fire. Not in some metaphorical way. It was, as far as I was concerned, on fire. I am bipolar and I was hallucinating. My hallucinations can be sensory, like the brain burn, but many are auditory — I know hallucinations are coming when I hear birds speak. During the six months leading up to this brain-fire time, I’d been having milder hallucinations, on and off. I took a medication that controlled my psychotic symptoms until my cholesterol skyrocketed and kept going up.

FEB 6, 2019

What's the difference between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder?

Medical News Today

People sometimes confuse borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder because they can have similar symptoms, such as intense emotional responses, depression, and impulsive behavior. However, borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder are two separate types of condition with different symptoms and treatment options. In this article, we discuss the primary differences between BPD and bipolar disorder, including the symptoms of each condition and the most common treatment options.

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Healthy Minds Healthy Lives public television show

International Bipolar Foundation

International Society for Bipolar Disorders

Mental Health America

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Physician Reviewed

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
January 2017