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Bipolar Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a long-term chemical imbalance that causes rapid changes in mood and behavior. High moods are called mania. Low moods are called depression. Sometimes you will feel manic and sometimes you will feel depressed. You can have alternating episodes of mania and depression. This is called a mixed bipolar state.

What increases my risk for bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance. You are more likely to have bipolar disorder if someone in your family has a mood disorder. Stress, and drug or alcohol abuse are the most common triggers for bipolar disorder symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of mania?

  • Being easily distracted or agitated, or focusing all your attention on a goal
  • Insomnia (trouble sleeping) or not needing as much sleep as usual
  • Inflated self-esteem or belief in abilities
  • Racing thoughts that may not make sense or be understood by others
  • Speech that is faster than usual, or you talk more than usual
  • Increased thoughts about sex
  • Happy and care free, with a sudden change to anger or irritability
  • Hallucinations that cause you to see and hear things that are not really there

What are the signs and symptoms depression?

  • Anger, worry, anxiousness, or irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Sadness or emptiness
  • Crying for long periods
  • Low self-esteem or sense of worthlessness
  • Negative thoughts or not caring about anything
  • Too much or too little sleep

How is bipolar disorder treated?

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but medicines may be used to control your mood swings. You may need to see a therapist or psychiatrist regularly for counseling. You may need to go into the hospital for tests and treatment.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
    730 N. Franklin Street, Suite 501
    Chicago , IL 60610-7224
    Phone: 1- 800 - 826-3632
    Web Address:

Call 911 if:

  • You think about hurting yourself or someone else.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You are having trouble managing your bipolar disorder.
  • You cannot sleep, or are sleeping all the time.
  • You cannot eat, or are eating more than usual.
  • You feel dizzy or your stomach is upset.
  • You cannot make it to your next appointment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.