Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can affect people of any age, but is usually diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood. Symptoms may vary from person to person, and can even change over time. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a person must have experienced at least one episode of mania or hypomania. Hypomania is a milder form of mania that doesn't include psychotic episodes, and can often lead to improved performance in social situations or at work.
Some people with bipolar disorder will have episodes of mania or hypomania many times throughout their lives, while others may experience them only rarely. Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose the type of bipolar disorder a person may be experiencing. To determine this, they evaluate the person's symptom pattern and degree of disability during their most severe episodes. Bipolar disorder can also appear for the first time during a woman's pregnancy or after giving birth, and generally requires lifelong treatment. Following a prescribed treatment plan can help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Mental health providers use the DSM to diagnose the type of bipolar disorder a person may be experiencing.
Bipolar disorder tends to run in families, and research suggests that certain genes may increase risk. The condition is usually diagnosed before age 25, although some people experience symptoms for the first time later in life. To receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, you must experience at least one period of mania or hypomania. People with bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed that they only have depression. In bipolar II disorder, the mildest form, manic episodes are mild and may go unnoticed. Time spent on symptoms of depression, meanwhile, outnumbers time spent on hypomanic symptoms by about 35 to one in people with bipolar II disorder.
A diagnosis of bipolar I disorder means that you have had at least 1 episode of mania that lasts longer than 1 week. You may also have periods of depression. Manic episodes will generally last 3 to 6 months if left untreated, while depressive episodes will generally last 6 to 12 months without treatment. When people with bipolar disorder experience four or more manic or depressive episodes in a year, this is called a “rapid cycle”. The word manic describes times when a person with bipolar disorder feels overly excited and confident.
Learning more about these differences can help scientists understand bipolar disorder and determine which treatments will work best. Keeping a life chart that records daily mood symptoms, treatments, sleep patterns, and life events can help patients and healthcare providers track and treat the condition more effectively. While some people take certain vitamin supplements to help with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, there are many possible problems with using them. Rapid cycling is not a type of bipolar disorder, but rather a term used to describe the course of illness in people with bipolar I or II disorder. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to have seasonal depression, coexisting anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. But if they seem to be part of a larger pattern of mood swings or begin to affect your daily life, they could be a sign of bipolar disorder or another condition. Scientists are currently conducting research to determine the relationship these factors have in bipolar disorder, how they can help prevent its occurrence, and what role they can play in its treatment. While bipolar disorder can cause a depressed mood, it has an important difference from depression: when a person's illness follows this classic pattern, diagnosing bipolar disorder is relatively easy.
People with bipolar disorder experience intense emotional states that usually occur over different periods of days to weeks, called mood episodes. Although bipolar disorder can't be seen in a blood test or body scan, these tests can help rule out other conditions that may resemble the disorder, such as hyperthyroidism. Bipolar disorder is a fairly common mental health condition, but experts haven't yet determined why some people develop it.