Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness. People who have it go through unusual mood changes. They go from very happy, "up," and active to very sad and hopeless, "down," and inactive, and then back again. They often have normal moods in between. The up feeling is called mania. The down feeling is depression.
The causes of bipolar disorder aren't always clear. It runs in families. Abnormal brain structure and function may also play a role.
Bipolar disorder often starts in a person's late teen or early adult years. But children and adults can have bipolar disorder too. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.
If you think you may have it, tell your health care provider. A medical checkup can rule out other illnesses that might cause your mood changes.
If not treated, bipolar disorder can lead to damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. However, there are effective treatments to control symptoms: medicine and talk therapy. A combination usually works best.
NIH: National Institute of Mental Health
Treatments and Therapies
- Bipolar Treatment: Are Bipolar I and Bipolar II Treated Differently? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Brain Stimulation Therapies (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Mental Health Medications (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Psychotherapies (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Personal Calendar: Treatment and Physical Tracking (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
- Personal Wellness Tools (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) - PDF
- Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism: Are They Related? (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Bipolar Medications and Weight Gain (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
- Mental Health Providers: Credentials, Services Offered and What to Expect (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Suicide Prevention (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
- Major Ups and Downs: Bipolar Disorder Brings Extreme Mood Swings (National Institutes of Health)
- Rapid Cycling and Its Treatment (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
- Types of Bipolar Disorder (National Institute of Mental Health)
- What Is Bipolar Disorder? A Guide to Hope and Recovery for African Americans (Mental Health America)
- Genetics Home Reference: bipolar disorder (National Library of Medicine)
Health Check Tools
- Mental Health Screening Center (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Sustained Reduction in Health Care Service Usage after Adjunctive Treatment of...
- Article: Risperidone adjunctive therapy duration in the maintenance treatment of bipolar I...
- Article: High-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) improves neurocognitive function in bipolar...
- Bipolar Disorder -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Behavioral Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Services Locator (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- Find Your Local NAMI (NAMI)
- Help for Mental Illnesses (National Institute of Mental Health)
- National Institute of Mental Health
- Psychologist Locator (American Psychological Association)