Overview of Bipolar Disorder

Overview of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness that causes extreme mood swings. Those with bipolar disorder will experience episodes of mania and depression. The disorder’s symptoms can affect one’s mood, energy levels, and ability to think clearly.

Mood swing episodes typically occur rarely, but can occur multiple times in a year. In between episodes, some individuals may not experience any symptoms.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are three types of bipolar disorder, each with their own defining characteristics. 

  • Bipolar I Disorder: defined by severe manic episodes lasting at least seven days, as well as depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks
  • Bipolar II Disorder: defined by pattern of depressive and hypomanic episodes, but not manic episodes as severe as with Bipolar I
  • Cyclothymic Disorder: defined by periods of depressive and hypomanic symptoms lasting for at least two years, however, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode


People having a manic episode may:

  • Feel jumpy or wired
  • Be distractible 
  • Have decreased need for sleep
  • Talk fast or more than usual
  • Have heightened self-confidence
  • Think they can do many things at once
  • Engage in risky activities
  • Feel “up” or related
  • Feel irritable
  • Experience a loss of appetite

People having a depressive episode may:

  • Feel slowed down
  • Feel sad or hopeless
  • Have trouble sleeping or be sleeping too much\
  • Decreased ability to think or concentrate
  • Be forgetful
  • Talk slowly
  • Have little or no interest in activities that are normally enjoyable
  • Feel empty


Treatment can often provide individuals relief from symptoms. Plans may vary but commonly include a combination of:

  • Psychotherapy
    • Psychotherapy (talk therapy) helps reduce symptoms of bipolar disorder for many. This type of therapy aims to help individuals identify and change negative emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • Medication
    • Some medications may help decrease the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Many people work with their health care provider to try a few medications before deciding which is best for them. 
    • The medications used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, second-generation antipsychotics, and antidepressants. In addition, medications used for sleep or to decrease anxiety may be prescribed.


  • To learn more about bipolar disorder, we recommend contacting your health care provider.
  • To read a further overview of bipolar disorder, the following resources are suggested: