Bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic-depressive, is a mental disorder that causes shifts in mood and activity levels. These mood shifts range from happy, energetic behavior (manic episodes) to very sad, hopeless behavior (depressive episodes). There are four basic types of Bipolar disorder that all share these frequent mood fluctuations.
Bipolar I Disorder— This is characterized by manic episodes that last at least a week. Sometimes these manic symptoms are so severe that the person needs to be hospitalized. Typically, the person’s depressive episodes last at least 2 weeks. In Bipolar I, episodes of depression with manic symptoms mixed in are also possible.
Bipolar II Disorder— This is defined by depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, less severe manic phases, that don’t require the level of care necessary for Bipolar I Disorder.
Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)— This type of Bipolar Disorder causes hypomanic episodes with periods of depressive symptoms that last for at least 2 years (or 1 year in adolescents and children).
Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders— This is defined by bipolar disorder symptoms that do not meet the criteria of the categories listed above.
People suffering from Bipolar disorder experience intense emotions, changes in sleep patterns, changes in energy levels, and unusual behavior. These periods are called mood episodes. Mood episodes are different from the moods and behaviors that are typical for that person.
Sometimes mood episodes include both manic and depressive symptoms. This is called an episode with mixed features. People who are suffering from an episode with mixed features may feel sad, empty, and hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energized.
Bipolar disorder can also be less extreme. During a less severe manic episode, a person with Bipolar disorder may feel good, be productive, and function well. This person may not recognize the changes in their own behavior, but their family and friends recognize the mood swings and changes in energy levels. Without proper treatment, people with hypomania may develop severe mania or depression.