disorder, also known by its older name "manic depression," is a mental
disorder that is characterized by serious mood swings. A person with
bipolar disorder experiences alternating “highs” (what clinicians call “mania“) and “lows” (also known as depression). Both the manic and depressive
periods can be brief, from just a few hours to a few days, or longer,
lasting up to several weeks or even months. The periods of mania
and depression vary from person to person — many people may only
experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even
be aware that they have bipolar disorder.
A manic episode is characterized by extreme happiness, extreme
irritability, hyperactivity, little need for sleep and/or racing
thoughts, which may lead to rapid speech. A depressive episode is
characterized by extreme sadness, a lack of energy or interest in
things, an inability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities and
feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. On average, someone with
bipolar disorder may have up to three years of normal mood between
episodes of mania or depression.
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