Bipolar Disorder & Manic Depression


What is Bipolar Disorder? 

Bipolar Disorder, also called manic depression, is a lifelong mental health condition, with extreme mood swings that cause emotional lows (depression) and highs (mania or hypomania). These dramatic mood swings can affect sleep, energy levels, judgment and behavior. People with this disorder have a higher risk of suicide, cardiovascular disease and accidents. Mood swings may occur rarely or several times a year. While most people experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, others may not.

People suffering from bipolar disorder can learn to manage their mood swings and other symptoms with help from Mercy behavioral health specialists. 

Types of Bipolar Disorder

In general, bipolar disorder is defined by mood episodes. But there are a few different types of bipolar disorder, and each type has slightly different symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are four major categories of bipolar disorder.

A type of bipolar characterized by depressive episodes and full manic episodes. Both types of episodes interfere severely with daily life.

A milder form of bipolar which involves depressive episodes and less extreme manic episodes (hypomania). Bipolar II still interferes with daily life, but the effects are less severe than with Bipolar I.

A rare disorder which involves mild but noticeable mood swings. The depressive and manic episodes are far milder than in bipolar disorder, but treatment is still recommended.

Bipolar Disorder Causes & Risk Factors

There’s no known single cause of bipolar disorder. However, there are many factors including genetics, medical history and environment that can contribute to bipolar. Some risk factors include:

  • Family history of bipolar or other mood disorders
  • Previous diagnosis of a mood disorder like depression
  • Trauma, stress or major life changes
  • Physical illness or use of certain medications 

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of bipolar disorder often begin when people are in their late teens or early twenties, but it’s also possible to notice symptoms developing earlier or later in life. Because bipolar involves episodes of both depression and mania, symptoms are most noticeable at these two extremes. 

Because depression can be a condition on its own, it’s important to watch for mood swings so your physician can determine if you have bipolar disorder or another mental condition. 

Keeping track of your moods and how extreme they are can help determine what kind of bipolar disorder you have. Common symptoms of mania include:

  • Extreme energy or excitement
  • Rapid speech or movement
  • Agitation, edginess or irritability
  • Risk-taking behavior, such as driving recklessly or spending more than you can afford
  • Bouts of increased activity or doing too many things at once
  • Feeling lack of need for sleep
  • Feeling jumpy or edgy for no reason

Manic episodes will be less extreme with Bipolar II and Cyclothymic disorder, so they’re often referred to as hypomanic episodes. Hypomania has the same characteristics as mania but will have a less significant effect on your life.


You may be able to recognize and control symptoms of hypomania on your own, but it’s still important that you seek treatment from a Mercy professional.

A manic breakdown or episode is an emotional state where an elevated or irritable mood exists for at least one week. The symptoms can disrupt your daily life and relationships. While manic episodes are not a disorder in themselves, they may be a symptom of bipolar and should be taken seriously.


Talk to your Mercy primary care physician and have a medical examination to rule out any underlying medical conditions. They can also refer you to Mercy Behavioral Health services for a mental health assessment to begin the diagnostic process.

It’s not uncommon for patients who have been in remission to have a reoccurrence of symptoms. Keep in mind that reoccurrence isn’t failure, just a temporary setback. Patients and families should learn to recognize symptom flare-ups and contact their Mercy provider before symptoms worsen. 

Diagnosis & Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of bipolar disorder, Mercy's behavioral health specialists are here to help.

Learn about bipolar diagnosis and treatment options here.

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