Bipolar disorder

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More than a mood swing

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.


Symptoms of bipolar disorder are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time.

If you have bipolar disorder, your symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide.

Bipolar disorder usually develops in your late teen or early adult years. At least half of all cases start before age 25. Some people may even have their first symptoms during childhood, mid-life or late-life.

Getting help

The good news is that this illness can be treated. If you have bipolar disorder, you can lead a full and productive life with the proper treatment.

Treatment usually includes psychotherapy, along with medications taken regularly. Most people need to take medication for the rest of their lives because stopping treatment can lead to worse and more severe bipolar episodes.

If you think you or someone you know might have bipolar disorder, make an appointment to see your doctor or contact the mental health department in your area.

Learn more about bipolar disorder.

Source: National Institute of Mental HealthKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.

Reviewed by: Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

©2015 Kaiser Permanente