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Help With Bipolar Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Bipolar disorders are brain disorders that cause changes in a person’s mood, energy and ability to function. Bipolar disorder is a category that includes three different conditions — bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Oct 16, 2017
Focus on Preventing Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a national public awareness campaign led by PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center.

  • Oct 11, 2017
Mental Health: Many Challenges to Getting Needed Help

We’ll take a look at some data from 2016, the latest available, on how many people are affected, how many are getting treatment and why many are not getting treatment.

  • Oct 05, 2017
Former Surgeon General Talks about Stress in America

Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., recently sat down to talk with National Institutes of Health Director, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., to talk about the public health consequences of stress in America—how stress is affecting us and what we can do about it.

Upcoming Events
Oct
2017
13
Monthly Webinars to Calm Anxious Minds
  • Fri,  Oct  13 - Tue,  Oct  31

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Oct
2017
13
Find campus based events and support
  • Fri,  Oct  13 - Tue,  Oct  31

Active Minds

Oct
2017
13

Mental Health America

Oct
2017
13
Support Group Locator
  • Fri,  Oct  13 - Tue,  Oct  31

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

Oct
2017
13

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Oct
2017
13
Find a NAMI Family Support Group
  • Fri,  Oct  13 - Tue,  Oct  31

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mar
2018
30
World Bipolar Day
  • Fri,  Mar  30

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance & Others

How quickly does a person with bipolar disorder shift between highs and lows?

It depends. Mood shift frequency varies from person to person. A small number of patients may have many episodes within one day, shifting from mania (an episode where a person is very high-spirited or irritable) to depression. This has been described as “ultra-rapid cycling.” More

Does having one manic episode necessarily mean you will have more and will have depressive episodes?

Not necessarily. Studies have shown that approximately 10 percent of patients have a single episode only. However, the majority of patients have more than one. The number of episodes within a patient’s lifetime varies. Some individuals may have only two or three within their lifetime while others may have the same number within a single year. Frequency of episodes depends on many factors including the natural course of the condition as well as on appropriate treatment. Not taking medication or taking it incorrectly are frequent causes of episode recurrence. More

Can someone with bipolar disorder be treated without medication?

Although it is possible that during the natural course of the illness individual patients may get well without any medication, the challenge is that it is impossible to identify or determine beforehand who those fortunate patients are. Although some patients don’t get well or just have partial response to the best available treatments, on average — and for the vast majority of patients — the benefits of medications outweigh the risks. More

What is a “mixed episode?”

The term “mixed episode” was changed to “mixed features” in the last edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. The new term may apply to either episodes of mania with additional symptoms of depression or the opposite, episodes of depression with additional symptoms of mania. The overall idea is that the presence of both mania and depression can exist at the same time. Symptoms of mania include elated mood, decreased need to sleep or racing thoughts. Symptoms of depression can include depressed mood, and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. More

Could my child have bipolar disorder?

It is possible for children to have bipolar disorder. This mental illness occurs in approximately 1 to 3 percent of the general population, and studies have shown that bipolar disorder has a genetic component. However it is also possible for bipolar disorder to appear in someone who has no family history of the disease. More

What can family members do to support a person with bipolar disorder?

Outcomes are always better when there is a strong family support network. Think of bipolar disorder as any other severe medical condition. However, also note that in many severe psychiatric conditions, patients may not be aware that they are ill. They may minimize the severity of their condition. The result of these factors may be that patients will not follow through on their treatment. In very severe cases, there may be instances of a lack of behavioral control where family members may not be able to look after their loved ones. In those cases, assistance from providers or even law enforcement agents may be necessary. More

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About the Expert:

Mauricio Tohen, M.D., Dr.PH, M.B.A.
Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Chelsea’s Story

Chelsea was a 43-year-old married librarian who came to an outpatient mental health clinic with a long history of depression. She described being depressed for a month since she began a new job. She had concerns that her new boss and colleagues thought her work was poor and slow, and that she was not friendly. She had no energy or enthusiasm at home. Instead of playing with her children or talking to her husband, she watched TV for hours, overate and slept long hours.

Read More

Have a Story of Your Own to Share?

Editor's Choice

OCT 18, 2017

Mental illness on Martha’s Vineyard: Life and death with severe bipolar disorder

MV Times

Leslie would like all parents to learn and be helped by Summer’s story and encourages all parents to become educated about mental illness and the grief caused by the sudden loss of a loved one.

OCT 18, 2017

Love (and sex) in the times of bipolar disorder

Scroll.in

“The lies you tell when you are manic are rooted in delusions. When you’re inventing fantastic fictions for your audience, you almost forget what truth is. The worlds you conjure exist. You will them to. Speech becomes a ticket to authenticity, and because no fabrication can be impervious to reality, you find your inconsistencies irksome. . . . You lie because your world ought to have been better.”

OCT 4, 2017

Bright light therapy at midday helped patients with bipolar depression

Health Medicine Network

Daily exposure to bright white light at midday significantly decreased symptoms of depression and increased functioning in people with bipolar disorder, a recent Northwestern Medicine study found. This study implemented a novel midday light therapy intervention in an effort to provide relief for bipolar depression and avoid side effects.

Resources

Bipolar Support Group


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance


Healthy Minds Healthy Lives public television show


International Bipolar Foundation


International Society for Bipolar Disorders


Mental Health America


National Alliance on Mental Illness

Physician Review By:

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
January 2017