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Symptoms of Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder

Abstract: Dramatic swings between manic and depressive episodes.

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Symptoms of Bipolar (Manic-Depressive) Disorder

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Question(s): 
Written by: , lecturer of Psychiatry in the University of Ioannina Medical School, Greece. Eva Gerasi, postgraduate student in the department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Ioannina, Greece
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 31 Jul 2008.

Describe bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) symptoms.

Answer:

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings-from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behaviour go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

It may be helpful to think of the various mood states in bipolar disorder as a spectrum or continuous range. At one end is severe depression, above which is moderate depression and then mild low mood, which many people call "the blues" when it is short-lived but is termed "dysthymia" when it is chronic. Then there is normal or balanced mood, above which comes hypomania (mild to moderate mania), and then severe mania.

In some people, however, symptoms of mania and depression may occur together in what is called a mixed bipolar state. Symptoms of a mixed state often include agitation, trouble sleeping, significant change in appetite, psychosis, and suicidal thinking. A person may have a very sad, hopeless mood while at the same time feeling extremely energized.

Bipolar disorder may appear to be a problem other than mental illness-for instance, alcohol or drug abuse, poor school or work performance, or strained interpersonal relationships. Such problems in fact may be signs of an underlying mood disorder.

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