Bipolar disorder (depression & mania) - causes, symptoms, treatment & pathology

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Maybe you’ve heard the term “bipolar” used to describe someone who’s moody, or

who has mood swings, but this colloquial use of the term is really different from bipolar


Bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depression, is a serious mental illness

that causes a person to have dramatic shifts in emotions, mood, and energy levels: moving

from extreme lows to extreme highs.

But these shifts don’t happen moment to moment, they usually happen over several days

or weeks.

There are a few different types of bipolar disorders, but there are some common features.

First, the low moods are identical to those in a related disorder - major depressive disorder,

also known as unipolar depression.

Individuals with this can feel hopeless and discouraged, lack energy and mental focus,

and can have physical symptoms like eating and sleeping too much or too little.

But along with these lows, the thing that sets bipolar disorders apart from unipolar

depression is that individuals can have periods of high moods, which are called manic episodes

or hypomanic episodes, depending on their level of severity.

In a manic state, people can feel energetic, overly happy or optimistic, even euphoric

with really high self-esteem.

And on the surface, these might seem like very positive characteristics, but when an

individual is in a full manic episode, these symptoms can reach a dangerous extreme.

A person experiencing mania might invest all of their money in a risky business venture