Also called manic-depressive disorder, this illness is characterized by cycling mood changes. Sometimes the changes are dramatic and rapid, but most often they are gradual, moving from depressed states through normal mood and into manic, elevated states.

In the depressive phase, the symptoms may appear identical to those of major depression. In the manic phase, the person may become overly talkative, hyperactive and euphoric without apparent cause. Since the person often feels invincible, judgment may become severely impaired and lead to impulsive and dangerous behavior. The manic phase of the illness is usually of shorter duration than the depressive phase. In addition, the phases do not always alternate consecutively. A more common presentation is a long series of depressive episodes interspersed with few episodes of mania. Below are symptoms typical of mania present during one phase of the bipolar disorder.

  • Abnormal or excessive elation
  • Markedly elevated energy levels
  • Poor judgment
  • Inappropriate social behavior
  • Unusual irritability
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Grandiose ideas
  • Increased and rapid speech
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased sexual desire

Treatment for this disorder almost always consists of long-term maintenance medication with mood stabilizers. Psychotherapy may be helpful to assist with learning coping strategies to deal with the depressed moods and head off mania.

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