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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

  • Apr 20, 2017
Ketamine for Depression: Much Promise, Many Unknowns

In recent years, the potential use of ketamine to treat severe depression has generated a lot of hope and excitement and headlines. Ketamine has long been medically used as an anesthesia and misused as a street drug. It has also shown great promise in treating severe depression, but there are still many questions and potential concerns.

  • Apr 19, 2017
Self-Advocacy Through Power Statements

Using “power statements” can help people with serious mental illness clarify and communicate their personal goals for medication and treatment, according to a new study. A power statement is a short, self-advocacy statement prepared by a patient based on a template. The study found that people with serious mental illness typically view medications not only as a way to address symptoms, but as a means to pursue meaningful life goals.

  • Apr 17, 2017
Treating Depression – Psychotherapy or Medication?

Evidence-based psychotherapy and antidepressant medication are both recommended treatments for depression under current guidelines. They have roughly the same effectiveness with 30 to 40 percent remission rates when each treatment is used alone.

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Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Educational Implications Facing Children with Bipolar Disorder
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International Bipolar Foundation

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  • Washington, D.C.
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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


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.

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Editor's Choice

FEB 17, 2017

Virginia Beach woman with bipolar disorder uses her own story to raise funds for advocacy

The Virginian-Pilot

Kim Ashby has some bedrock tools to raise money for mental health advocacy: Persistence. A network of friends, family and co-workers. And most important, her own story. “I have a mental illness myself,” she said at a National Alliance on Mental Illness function in Virginia Beach last week. Ashby was the top fundraiser in the state for the Virginia NAMI Walk in October. She raised $6,000, and was honored at an event at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art last week.

FEB 15, 2017

Ricki Lake's ex-husband has died after struggle with bipolar disorder

ABC News

Actress and former talk show host Ricki Lake has revealed that her ex-husband has died at age 45 after a lifelong battle with bipolar disorder. "The world didn't understand this man, but I did. He succumbed to his life long struggle with bipolar disorder. For anyone who has ever lost a family member or friend to mental illness, my heart goes out to you."

FEB 13, 2017

Local Health Professionals Develop App to Manage Bipolar Disorder

Rivard Report

Dr. Charles Bowden is a psychiatrist at UT Health San Antonio who saw the need for an easy-to-use tool for patients to manage bipolar symptoms better. He is one of the co-developers/investigators of the KIOS Bipolar app created in 2015 with funding from the National Institute of Mental Health. The app provides real time behavioral advice matched to an individual’s changing mental condition.

JAN 31, 2017

Brain Scans May Shed Light on Bipolar Disorder-Suicide Risk

HealthDay News

About half of people with bipolar disorder — marked by extreme mood swings — attempt suicide and as many as one in five dies by suicide, the study authors said. For the new study, teens and young adults with bipolar disorder underwent brain scans. Compared with those who had not attempted suicide, those who had attempted suicide had slightly less volume and activity in areas of the brain that regulate emotion and impulses, and in the white matter that connects those areas.


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