People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behavior.
An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.
Symptoms of Mania can include:
- Feeling overly happy for an extended period of time
- An abnormally increased level of irritability
- Overconfidence or an extremely inflated self-esteem
- Increased talkativeness
- Decreased amount of sleep
- Engaging in lots of risky behavior, such as spending sprees and impulsive sex
- Racing of thoughts, jumping quickly from one idea to another
- Easily distractible
- Feeling agitated or “jumpy”
- Extreme changes in energy, activity, sleep, and behavior go along with these changes in mood
Symptoms of Depression can include:
- Diminished capacity for pleasure or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- A long period of feeling hopeless, helpless or low self-esteem
- Decreased amount of energy; feeling constantly tired
- Inability to concentrate and make simple decisions
- Change in eating, sleeping or other daily habits
- Being agitated or slowed down in movement, speech or thought
- Thoughts of death or suicide attempts
In bipolar disorder, suicide is an ever-present danger on both sides of mood swings, as some individuals can become suicidal in manic or mixed (high and low) states.
Although some ground has been made in discovering the factors associated with the risk of developing bipolar disorder, scientists have not discovered a single precise cause. Based on the best available date, many scientists suggest that bipolar disorder can be caused by more than one factor (e.g., genes, environmental stress, nutrition, inflammatory factors or other stress in the brain).