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Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depression, is a treatable condition that typically causes extreme swings in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. There can often be periods of normal mood between episodes. This medical problem is not due to personal weakness or a character flaw.

The mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are different from the average ups and downs experienced by everybody in life. In severe cases, bipolar disorder can be associated with psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusions, or thought disorganization. These symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. When treated appropriately, people with this condition can lead full and productive lives.

Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 2%-3% of American adults (18 and older). The condition typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood. However, some people have their first symptoms during childhood, and some develop symptoms late in life. Bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed by a medical professional throughout a person's life.

The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but it tends to run in families. Specific genes may play a role, but it is not caused by one single gene. Additional factors, including stressors at home, work, or school, are believed to be involved in its onset.

People with bipolar disorder are at increased risk for suicide, substance abuse, and high-risk behaviors such as reckless driving and sexual promiscuity. Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, tend to occur at a higher rate in people with bipolar disorder.

References:

Bipolar disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated August 15, 2013. Accessed September 4, 2013.

Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml. Updated 2008. Accessed September 4, 2013.

DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: http://www.psychiatry.org/dsm5. Accessed September 4, 2013.

Estevez RF, Suppes T. Maintenance treatment in bipolar I disorder. In: Yatham LN, Kusumakar V, ed. Bipolar Disorder: A Clinician’s Guide to Biological Treatments. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC; 2009: 107-152.

Merikangas KR, Akiskal HS, et al. Lifetime and 12-month prevalence of bipolar spectrum disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007;64:543-552.

The numbers count: mental disorders in America. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml. Accessed September 4, 2013.

Price AL, Marzanni-Nissen GR. Bipolar disorders: a review. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(5):483-93.

Stern T, Rosenbaum J, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.

InjurypPrevention & control statistics (WISQARS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. Updated August 29, 2013. Accessed September 4, 2013.

Last reviewed September 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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