Bipolar Disorder: Symptoms and Treatment

  • People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called "mood episodes." Manic episodes consist of overly joyful or overexcited state, and depressive episodes consist of an extremely sad or hopeless state. Mood episodes can include symptoms of both mania and depression, called a mixed state.

  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, defines four basic types of bipolar disorder.

  • People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode. It is possible for someone with bipolar disorder to experience a long-lasting period of unstable moods rather than discrete episodes of depression or mania.

  • Patients with bipolar disorder have a number of manic or depressive symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, for at least one or two weeks. Sometimes symptoms are so severe that the person cannot function normally at work, school or home.

  • Symptoms of bipolar disorder are described in this table.

  • Bipolar disorder symptoms continued.

  • Pain Management More Complex in Patients with Psychiatric Disorders

    Pain Management More Complex in Patients with Psychiatric Disorders

    Because bipolar disorder is a lifelong and recurrent illness, people with the disorder need long-term treatment with medication and psychotherapy to maintain control of their symptoms. Medications include mood stabilizers, anticonvulsants, atypical antipsychotics and antidepressants. These medications carry a risk for serious side effects, so patients should be counseled about the possible risks and benefits.

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Bipolar disorder, formerly known as “manic-depressive disorder,” is mood disorder in which the individual most commonly experiences episodes of depression and episodes of mania.

It is more common in women than men, with a ratio of approximately 3:2. The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years, with men having an earlier age of onset than women, according to the CDC.

Bipolar disorder has been deemed the most expensive behavioral health care diagnosis, costing more than twice as much as depression per affected individual. Total costs largely arise from indirect costs and are attributable to lost productivity, in turn arising from absenteeism and presenteeism.

For every dollar allocated to outpatient care for persons with bipolar disorder, $1.80 is spent on inpatient care, suggesting early intervention and improved prevention management could decrease the financial impact of this illness. Learn more about bipolar disorder in this slideshow.


  1. National Institutes of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder. 16 May 2012. Accessed 10 May 2013. Available at
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental Health. “Bipolar Disorder.” 16 Dec 2011. Accessed 10 May 2013. Available at:

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