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Bipolar Disorder (formerly known as Manic Depressive Disorder) causes fluctuations of mood, ranging from a severe low (depression) to an extreme high (mania). The shifts along the mood spectrum exist as distinct emotional periods that may last from several hours to several days or even several weeks. The episodes may be depressive in nature, where the individual feels worthless or hopeless, has crying spells, and experiences suicidal ideation or attempts at self-harm. In the depressive state, an individual’s participation in their own life is negatively impacted, such that they may struggle to get out of bed, go to work, maintain contact with family and friends, or even to take care of their most basic needs such as grooming, eating, or being physically active.

Conversely, an individual in a manic state exhibits an extremely high level of energy that is noticeable and unusual to others. People experiencing mania may speak rapidly and move from one topic to another in a way that is difficult for others to follow, have grandiose ideas about their own capabilities, and may participate in risky behavior such as spending sprees, driving at top speeds, or engaging in reckless sexual activity. They may go days or possibly weeks without sleeping or eating.

There are three subtypes of Bipolar Disorder, including:

Bipolar I

  • Defined by manic episodes lasting at least seven days or being severe enough to require immediate intervention for the safety of the individual
  • Depressive episodes lasting at least two weeks are often present but do not have to be present to be diagnosed as Bipolar I

Bipolar II

  • Defined by history of at least one hypomanic (a less extreme degree of mania) episode rather than manic episodes
  • History of at least one major depressive episode must be present

Cyclothymic Disorder 
Defined by mood cycling (hypomanic and depressive episodes) for at least a two year period but not to the degree that meets the criteria for a Bipolar I, Bipolar II, or Major Depressive Disorder diagnosis.

Therapists Who Specialize in Bipolar Disorder

Valarie Smith | LCSW
Valarie Smith
Lisa Anyan Smith | Ph.D.
Lisa Anyan Smith
Hunter Sandifer | LPC
Hunter Sandifer
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