Bipolar disorder, formerly known as “manic depression,” is a condition marked by the experience of at least one manic or hypomanic episode.
A manic episode is a serious event in which mood is affected for at least one week. Common markers of mania are increased energy, decreased need for sleep, starting many new projects (but not necessarily finishing them), risky behaviors, increased alcohol or substance use, impulsiveness, rapid speech, and racing thoughts.
Symptoms of a manic episode can include the following, if present for a week or more:
- feeling unusually up, or high, or full of energy OR feeling extremely irritable
- Unrealistic beliefs about one’s abilities or identity
- Reduced need for sleep
- Rapid speech
- Racing thoughts and rapid-fire new ideas that make the person difficult to understand or keep up with
- Impulsive behaviors (can include drugs, alcohol, sex, spending/shopping, and more)
- Hallucinations or delusions (less common)
Some people with bipolar disorder experience hypomanic episodes instead of, or in addition to, manic episodes. Hypomanic episodes include some but not all of the symptoms of manic episodes and last for at least four days.
Bipolar disorder often, but not always, includes depressive episodes. In general, bipolar disorder should be primarily treated by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist will prescribe medications helpful for stabilizing mood. The psychiatrist will often work in conjunction with a therapist. One way in which a therapist ccan be helpful is to devise strategies to reduce risk of relapse once remission is achieved.