Frequently Asked Questions

Bipolar Disorder

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What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a long-term chemical imbalance that causes rapid changes in mood and behavior. High moods are called mania. Low moods are called depression. Sometimes you will feel manic and sometimes you will feel depressed. You can have mania and depression at the same time. This is called a mixed bipolar state.

What increases my risk for bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is caused by chemical changes in your body. You are more likely to have bipolar disorder if someone in your family has a mood disorder. Stress, and drug or alcohol abuse are the most common triggers for bipolar disorder symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder?

Symptoms usually start suddenly. Your friends and family may notice changes before you do.

  • Symptoms of mania:

    • Happy and care free, with a sudden change to anger or irritability

    • Racing thoughts that may not make sense or be understood by others

    • Hallucinations that cause you to see and hear things that are not really there

    • Speech that is faster than usual, or you talk more than usual

    • Increased thoughts about sex

    • Inflated self-esteem or belief in abilities

  • Symptoms of depression:

    • Anger, worry, anxiousness, or irritability

    • Lack of energy

    • Sadness or emptiness

    • Crying for long periods

    • Low self-esteem or sense of worthlessness

    • Negative thoughts or not caring about anything

    • Too much or too little sleep

How is bipolar disorder treated?

There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but medicines may be used to control your mood swings. You may need to see a therapist or psychiatrist regularly for counseling. You may need to go into the hospital for tests and treatment.

What are the risks of bipolar disorder?

The periods of mania and depression may last for weeks or months. Without treatment, your bipolar disorder could get worse. Your illness could make it hard to work and get along with others. It may also affect your eating and sleeping.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Public Information & Communication Branch
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address:
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)
    730 N. Franklin Street, Suite 501
    Chicago , IL 60610-7224
    Phone: 1- 800 - 826-3632
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You are having trouble managing your bipolar disorder.

  • You cannot sleep, or are sleeping all the time.

  • You cannot eat, or are eating more than usual.

  • You feel dizzy or your stomach is upset.

  • You cannot make it to your next appointment.

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate help?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • You think about hurting yourself or someone else.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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