What to Expect

Bipolar episodes can be short or long. When ill, or symptomatic, most people with bipolar disorder spend more time in a depressed phase than a manic phase. Bipolar disorder may be managed with treatment.

pschiatrists treat a patient with manic depressive disorder symptoms

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can impact many important areas of your life. It can affect both how you feel and how you act, as well as the lives of the people closest to you. While most people begin to notice symptoms when they are in their teens or early 20s, bipolar disorder can occur at almost any age, and millions of people worldwide have been diagnosed with the illness. Even though bipolar disorder is a serious condition, with proper treatment, symptoms may be managed.

Bipolar disorder can cause extreme mood swings—from extreme highs, or “manic episodes,” to extreme lows, sometimes known as “depressive episodes” or simply “bipolar depression.” Between episodes, people may have mild symptoms or no obvious symptoms at all. But even when you’re feeling well, you still have bipolar disorder—it’s a lifelong condition. Episodes can last for days, weeks, months, and, rarely, years.

Bipolar depression can be difficult and disruptive

When they are ill or symptomatic, most people with bipolar disorder experience at least 3 times more depressive symptoms than manic or hypomanic (less severe manic) symptoms.

The symptoms of bipolar depression go beyond sad moods and bad days. They may be both physical and emotional and can throw your life off track.

Bipolar depression can be overwhelming

While symptoms of both depression and mania can cause problems for people with bipolar disorder, some research indicates that bipolar depression may have a greater impact for many people.

  • Depressive episodes of bipolar disorder usually last longer than episodes of mania
  • When ill or symptomatic, people with bipolar disorder generally spend more time in the depressive phase than they do in the manic or hypomanic phase
  • The majority of suicides (attempted and completed) among people diagnosed with bipolar disorder occur during the depressive phase, or a mixed phase, of the illness

Bipolar disorder is treatable and manageable

The good news is that people with bipolar disorder are able to manage their symptoms. Feeling better typically involves a combination of education, medication, discussion, and professional consultation. There are many different medicines shown to be effective in people with bipolar disorder. In most cases, psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) is also used. People who struggle with this illness can lead a productive life with the proper bipolar disorder treatment plan.

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