Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme highs and lows in mood and energy. While everyone experiences ups and downs, the severe shifts that happen in bipolar disorder can have a serious impact on a person’s life. More than 3.3 million American adults (1.7 percent) suffer from bipolar disorder in a given year.

Contrary to how it is sometimes used in conversation, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder does not mean a person is highly emotional but, rather, refers to someone who experiences extended periods of mood and energy that are excessively high and or/irritable to sad and hopeless, with periods of normal mood in between.

It typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as an illness and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years.

Bipolar disorder can be extremely distressing and disruptive for those who have this disease, their spouses, family members, friends and employers. Although there is no known cure, bipolar disorder is treatable, and recovery is possible. Individuals with bipolar disorder can and do have successful relationships and meaningful jobs. The combination of medication, therapy, healthy lifestyle and support helps the vast majority of people return to productive, fulfilling lives.

People may inherit a tendency to develop the illness, which can then be triggered by environmental factors such as distressing life events.

Brain development, structure and chemicals called neurotransmitters, which act as messengers between nerve cells, are also thought to play a role in the development of bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is often difficult to recognize and diagnose. Symptoms may feel good to a person, which may lead to denial that there is a problem.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder fall into two categories: mania and depression.

Mania, which can last up to three months, if untreated, can include excessive energy, euphoric feelings, decreased need for sleep and unrealistic belief in one’s abilities, therefore exhibiting bad judgment at times.

An episode of depression can come before a manic or normal period in your life. Symptoms include a persistent sad or anxious mood, thoughts of suicide, feeling hopeless or worthless and changes in sleep patterns.

If you or someone you love is experiencing the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, the Swanson Center is here to help. For more information, visit www.SwansonCenter.org or call 879-0676.

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