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What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme mood swings, including intense emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and deep emotional lows (depression). These episodes may occur occasionally or several times a year; it varies from person to person.

What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder?


Your bipolar disorder symptoms depend on whether you’re experiencing a manic episode or a depressive episode.


During a manic episode, you may:

  • Have a lot of energy
  • Spend more money
  • Have unprotected sex
  • Feel generally reckless
  • Do too many things at once
  • Feel jumpy
  • Become more easily irritable
  • Have insomnia
  • Become more active

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. If you are experiencing a hypomanic episode, you may feel positive, energetic, and more productive. When left untreated, hypomania can lead to extreme mania or depression.


During a depressive episode, you may:

  • Feel hopeless or extremely sad
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Feel empty
  • Become forgetful
  • Experience extreme fatigue
  • Overeat or undereat
  • Decrease your activity levels
  • Contemplate suicide
  • Feel worried

A depressive episode makes simple tasks like getting dressed, taking a shower, or interacting with friends or coworkers seem like a daunting challenge.


How is bipolar disorder diagnosed?


A proper diagnosis is crucial for treating bipolar disorder. To rule out other conditions, Serenity Psychiatry may recommend a physical exam. In some cases, thyroid disease can mimic the symptoms of bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.


Next, Serenity Psychiatry will perform a full mental health evaluation. During this exam, they ask you questions about your mood, behavior, and feelings. They may even ask your permission to gather additional information from your friends, family, and other people with whom you have daily interactions.


Mood charting — keeping a daily record of your mood, sleep patterns, emotions, and more — not only helps Serenity Psychiatry determine the right diagnosis for you, but it also gives them the information they need to plan your bipolar disorder treatment.


How is bipolar disorder treated?



It’s often challenging for people with bipolar disorder to find the right medication. You may need to try several different medications before you find the best one for you. Some of the most common bipolar disorder medications include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medication
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Atypical antipsychotics



Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychotherapy, strives to change cognitive distortions and behaviors so you can feel more emotionally regulated, productive, and able to solve problems on your own. When combined with effective medication, CBT can replace negative, unhealthy behaviors with positive ones.


Other forms of therapy used to treat bipolar disorder include:

  • Psychoeducation
  • Family-focused therapy
  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy
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