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Bipolar Disorder - What It Is, Different Types, Causes, Risks, Symptoms & Treatments Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that can cause intense mood swings: Sometimes you may feel extremely "up," elated, irritable, or energized. This is called a manic episode. Other times you may feel "down," sad, indifferent, or hopeless. This is called a depressive episode. You may have both manic and depressive symptoms together. This is called a mixed episode. Along with the mood swings, bipolar disorder causes changes in behavior, energy levels, and activity levels. Bipolar disorder used to be called other names, including manic depression and manic-depressive disorder. What are the types of bipolar disorder? There are three main types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I disorder involves manic episodes that last at least 7 days or manic symptoms so severe that you need immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes are also common. Those often last at least two weeks. This type of bipolar disorder can also involve mixed episodes. Bipolar II disorder involves depressive episodes. But instead of full-blown manic episodes, there are episodes of hypomania. Hypomania is a less severe version of mania. Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, also involves hypomanic and depressive symptoms. But they are not as intense or as long-lasting as hypomanic or depressive episodes. The symptoms usually last for at least two years in adults and for one year in children and teenagers. With any of these types, having four or more episodes of mania or depression in a year is called "rapid cycling." What causes bipolar disorder? The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Several factors likely play a role in the disorder. They include genetics, brain structure and function, and your environment. Who is at risk for bipolar disorder? You are at higher risk for bipolar disorder if you have a close relative who has it. Going through trauma or stressful life events may raise this risk even more. What are the symptoms of bipolar disorder? The symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary. But they involve mood swings known as mood episodes: The symptoms of a manic episode can include Feeling very up, high, or elated Feeling jumpy or wired, more active than usual Having a very short temper or seeming extremely irritable Having racing thoughts and talking very fast Needing less sleep Feeling like you are unusually important, talented, or powerful Do risky things that show poor judgment, such as eating and drinking too much, spending or giving away a lot of money, or having reckless sex The symptoms of a depressive episode can include Feeling very sad, hopeless, or worthless Feeling lonely or isolating yourself from others Talking very slowly, feeling like you have nothing to say, or forgetting a lot Having little energy Sleeping too much Eating too much or too little Lack of interest in your usual activities and being unable to do even simple things Thinking about death or suicide The symptoms of a mixed episode include both manic and depressive symptoms together. For example, you may feel very sad, empty, or hopeless, while at the same time feeling extremely energized. Some people with bipolar disorder may have milder symptoms. For example, you may have hypomania instead of mania. With hypomania, you may feel very good and find that you can get a lot done. You may not feel like anything is wrong. But your family and friends may notice your mood swings and changes in activity levels. They may realize that your behavior is unusual for you. After the hypomania, you might have severe depression. Your mood episodes may last a week or two or sometimes longer. During an episode, symptoms usually occur every day for most of the day. What are the treatments for bipolar disorder? Treatment can help many people, including those with the most severe forms of bipolar disorder. The main treatments for bipolar disorder include medicines, psychotherapy, or both: Medicines can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. You may need to try several different medicines to find which one works best for you. Some people need to take more than one medicine. It's important to take your medicine consistently. Don't stop taking it without first talking with your provider. Contact your provider if you have any concerns about side effects from the medicines. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help you recognize and change troubling emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. It can give you and your family support, education, skills, and coping strategies. There are several different types of psychotherapy that may help with bipolar disorder.