Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. It is characterized by manic episodes, hypomanic episodes, and depressive episodes. Bipolar I disorder is the most serious form of the disease, while Bipolar II disorder is characterized by predominantly depressive episodes accompanied by occasional hypomanic episodes. Mixed episodes, which involve both manic and depressive symptoms, are often described as the worst part of bipolar disorder.
To determine what type of bipolar disorder a person may have, mental health providers use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to evaluate the pattern of symptoms and how much they affect a person's life during the most severe episodes. There are no markers of bipolar disorder in the blood, but a complete blood test and physical exam can help rule out other possible causes of behavior. Treatment for bipolar disorder typically involves psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Health care providers often prescribe atypical or second-generation neuroleptics (antipsychotics) in combination with a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar disorder can have a significant impact on life expectancy, with people with bipolar disorder having a reduction in life expectancy of up to nine years. Additionally, up to one in five people with bipolar disorder commit suicide. It is important to seek treatment for bipolar disorder as soon as possible to reduce the risk of long-term complications.