Bipolar disorder,  otherwise known as manic depression, is a serious behavioral health condition that can leave those affected feeling out of control and out of options. 

Overview of bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder that causes an individual to have extreme mood swings. One minute, an individual suffering from bipolar may feel of energetic, excited, and elated, and the next minute the same individual may feel extreme depression and sadness. As such, the term "manic depression" is also used for this mood disorder.

Because the disorder affects one's body, mood, and thoughts, and causes dietary and sleep problems, treatment is important for recovery from the condition.


Bipolar disorder equally affects men and women, as well as the young and the old. Girls and women tend to display more depressive symptoms, whereas boys and men lean towards displaying manic symptoms. Common depressive and manic symptoms include:

Depressive symptoms

  • Changes in eating habits, including eating too little or too much
  • Chronic pain, digestive problems, and/or headaches
  • Constant anxious, empty, and sad mood
  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of restlessness and/or irritability
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide, or attempted suicide

Manic symptoms

  • Aggressive, destructive, and risky actions and behavior
  • Easily distracted or irritable
  • Easily agitated
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Increased energy and sex drive
  • Need for less sleep and rest
  • Unusually poor judgement
  • Talking fast and a lot


Treatment typically involves a combination, or at least one, of cognitive-behavioral therapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and medication. Here are more details surrounding each of these treatment methods:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: This is also known as interpersonal therapy and involves a focus on changing one's distorted view of himself or herself, as well as his or her environment. This therapy also concentrates on bettering an individual's interpersonal and stress-coping skills.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy: This treatment is normally reserved for those who suffer from severe depression, and after an individual has not responded to medication. ECTs work by passing a quick electrical current through the brain, which triggers a mild seizure. In response, for unknown reasons, this can restore a healthy balance of chemicals in the brain to reduce bipolar symptoms.
  • Medication: Multiple drugs can be used to treat bipolar disorder. Often, it takes at least four to six weeks for medication to take effect. Many individuals find that they must switch or add a medication before seeing desired results.

For most people who are bipolar, consistent, long-term treatment is needed to effectively treat the condition. It is important to understand that it will take a considerable amount of time to treat bipolar disorder, and to be patient if desired results are delayed.

© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.