Also known as manic-depressive illness, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects an estimated 60 million people worldwide.28
People with bipolar disorder experience drastic mood swings. Sometimes they have manic episodes, during which they feel very happy and more energetic and active than usual. Other times, they go through depressive episodes, with feelings of deep sadness and a loss of energy.
The most common symptoms during manic episodes are excessive energy, with great agitation and speeding up of thinking, which can be observed by very rapid and sometimes confused speech; euphoric feelings and unrealistic beliefs, which make the person feel with exacerbated self-esteem; decreased need for sleep, being able to spend days with little or no sleep, without feeling tired; lack of impulse control, which can be manifested by excessive spending and reckless behavior; inappropriate sexual conduct; drug abuse and paranoid behavior.29
The symptoms of depressive episodes are the same as those manifested in those who suffer from depression: deep and persistent sadness; sleep changes; reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain; irritability or agitation; difficulties concentrating and making decisions; fatigue or loss of energy; feelings of guilt and helplessness and suicidal thoughts.29
Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. Diagnosis is often difficult and, as a consequence, many patients suffer needlessly for years or even decades.30
About 80-90% of people with bipolar disorder have a family member with the illness or depression. Environmental factors also play a major role: extreme stress, sleep disturbances, drugs and alcohol can trigger episodes in more vulnerable patients.31
Bipolar disorder is a disease with relatively effective treatment. Treatment is usually done with medication and can be complemented with psychotherapy.31