What Is It?
Sometimes called manic depression, bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood. People who have it may spend weeks feeling like they’re on top of the world before plunging into a deep depression. The length of each high and low varies greatly from person to person.
What the Depression Phase Is Like
Without treatment, a person with bipolar disorder may have intense episodes of depression. Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, loss of energy, hopelessness, and trouble concentrating. They may lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy. It’s also common to gain or lose weight, sleep too much or too little, and even think about suicide.
When Someone Is Manic
During this phase, people feel super-charged and think they can do anything. Their self-esteem soars out of control and it’s hard for them to sit still. They talk more, are easily distracted, their thoughts race, and they don’t sleep enough. It often leads to reckless behavior, such as spending sprees, cheating, fast driving, and substance abuse. Three or more of these symptoms nearly every day for a week accompanied by feelings of intense excitement may signal a manic episode.
Bipolar I vs. Bipolar II
People with bipolar I disorder have manic phases for at least a week. Many also have separate depression phases, too.
Those with bipolar ll have bouts of major depression, but instead of full manic episodes, they have low-grade hypomanic swings that are less intense and may last less than a week. They may seem fine, even like the “life of the party,” though family and friends notice their mood changes.