Definition of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness, is a mood disorder characterized by severe and unusual shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. People with bipolar disorder tend to cycle from one "pole" of mood to another. Periods of overly elevated mood, known as manic episodes, typically alternate with periods of depression.

Bipolar disorder is usually a life-long condition, although many people are free of symptoms between episodes. Those with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder have four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed symptoms within a year, with some experiencing more than one episode within one day.

The DSM-IV lists 4 basic types of bipolar disorder:

Bipolar I is what most people think of when they think bipolar: manic or mixed episodes lasting at least one week, or severe manic symptoms requiring hospitalization; most people also have depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks.

In bipolar II, depressive episodes alternate with hypomanic episodes, an elevated mood that does not quite reach the level of mania.

Because not everyone with bipolar fits into these first two groups, there is also the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. People with this diagnosis often have symptoms that are unusual for them, but which don't last long enough or are too few for a diagnosis of bipolar I or II.

Finally, there is a mild form of bipolar disorder known as cyclothymia. People with cyclothymia have episodes of hypomania that shift back and forth with mild depression for at least two years, but do not meet the diagnostic requirements for any other type of bipolar disorder.

Related Articles

Bipolar Disorder Articles

Bipolar Disorder Facts

Bipolar Disorder in Teenagers

Do I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Type 2 Bipolar Disorder

More Articles

It is estimated that nearly 1.2% of the population in the U.S. has schizophrenia. The disorder can vary in terms of severity and manageability,...

A diagnosis of schizophrenia can bring about a limitless number of changes...

Creatine is a type of acid naturally manufactured by our liver, pancreas and kidneys. One of its primary roles in the body is to provide energy...

There are two commonly used sets of criteria for diagnosing schizophrenia and other mental health disorders: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual...

There are a number of talented musicians who have suffered from schizophrenia at some point in...

More Articles

More Articles

It is estimated that nearly 1.2% of the population in the U.S. has schizophrenia. The disorder can vary in terms of severity and manageability,...

A diagnosis of schizophrenia can bring about a limitless number of changes...

Creatine is a type of acid naturally manufactured by our liver, pancreas and kidneys. One of its primary roles in the body is to provide energy...

There are two commonly used sets of criteria for diagnosing schizophrenia and other mental health disorders: the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual...

There are a number of talented musicians who have suffered from schizophrenia at some point in...

People in the prodromal phase of schizophrenic experience what can be called...

The term "schizophrenic break" refers to an episode of acute psychosis in someone with...

Treating schizophrenia with medication often yields positive results. Nowadays, there are many...

Understanding the pathophysiology of schizophrenia (or, in other words, the physiological...

Scientists have been studying schizophrenia for a long time, trying to determine what...

An estimated 30% of people with schizophrenia have refractory schizophrenia, which means their...

While most people can’t fathom purposely hurting themselves, self-injury is not uncommon with certain types of psychiatric disorders. Although it...

Although schizophrenia goes back several thousand years, this most serious of psychiatric disorders was not officially coined “schizophrenia”...

The neurotransmitter serotonin is known to influence a number of important brain functions, including perception, mood, sleep, appetite, cognition...

There are a number of different research methods used in psychology, but one of the most interesting to the layperson is the case study. Case...