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Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

People don't feel the exact same way every day. Our feelings and moods can change depending on what is going on in our lives. For instance, someone may feel stressed out due to work or school, but then feel relaxed and happy while out with friends on the weekend.

However, some people have extreme mood swings. Sometimes their moods change daily or even hourly. And it happens a lot. They may feel at times as though they're on top of the world. They are happy, filled with energy, and want to do a lot of different things. The next day they may feel depressed, and hopeless. They may not even feel like they can get out of bed.

The difference between mood swings and bipolar disorder is the timing and severity. Natural mood swings are not usually extreme. They typically don't last very long. They also don't happen a lot. Regular mood swings may cause a little shift in behavior and feelings, but they don't stop people from doing things like going to work or going to school. They don't make people think about death or suicide.

People who have bipolar disorder go through intense mood swings. Their feelings can be hard to control. Their moods change often and they can't help it. This type of strong mood swing is caused by a brain condition called bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder used to be called manic-depressive illness because at times the person feels very "up" — which is the manic part — and at other times the person feels very "down" — which is the depressive part.

Common symptoms of bipolar disorder

Having bipolar disorder can mean feeling very happy  one moment and extremely depressed the next. These are the kinds of mood swings that can disrupt a person's life if he or she does not get help.

A person in the manic phase of bipolar disorder may:

  • Feel very up or happy.
  • Have a lot of energy.
  • Talk very fast about a lot of different things.
  • Feel jumpy or wired.
  • Have trouble sleeping or relaxing.
  • Do risky things like spend a lot of money or act unsafe sexually.

A person in the depressive phase of bipolar disorder may:

  • Feel very sad, down, empty, or hopeless.
  • Have very little energy and become less active.
  • Have trouble doing daily tasks.
  • Lose interest in fun activities.
  • Sleep too much.
  • Think about death or suicide.

These shifting emotions can make life hard. They can get in the way of work, school, and relationships with other people. People suffering from bipolar disorder may even try to hurt themselves.

Causes of bipolar disorder and treatment options

Health care professionals are not exactly sure what causes bipolar disorder. They know it can run in some families and that people can have the condition for many years before anyone realizes there is a problem. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but it can be treated and managed.

There are different types of medicines that can help with the symptoms. Talk therapy is also very effective for helping people understand and cope with the condition. Health care professionals usually recommend a combination of medicine and talk therapy to treat those with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder isn't always easy to diagnose. Other behavioral health conditions can cause people to have strong mood swings. Regardless of the reason for the mood swings, moods that harm a person's quality of life are a sign of a problem, and specialists can help with these problems.

Talking to a health care professional and getting the right kind of treatment is the first step toward feeling better. If you are not already in treatment for bipolar disorder and feel you might benefit from outpatient therapy, you can call PerformCare Member Services for answers to your care questions or for help finding a Provider.

Source: The National Institute of Mental Health