Bipolar Disorder


Have you ever experienced mood swings? Fine one minute, feeling grumpy the next; super happy about something one day, totally bummed about it the next?  If you have, this is most likely a normal and expected range of emotions that go along with life as a teen. With these type of ups and downs, you can go on with your daily life and keep up with your commitments. However, some people experience mood swings that cause extremely distressing emotions and serious disruptions in many parts of their lives– when this happens, it could be a condition called Bipolar Disorder which is significantly different from typical mood swings and difficult to manage without help.

Bipolar disorder versus mood swings

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness) causes distinct mood changes that are extremely distressing, are very disruptive to your life and are very different from the normal variations in mood that most teens experience. A person with bipolar disorder has distinct episodes of mania (feeling excessively “up” or irritable) and episodes of major depression (feeling very “down”) that last much longer than the typical range of emotions.   Also, bipolar mood changes (called cycles), from mania to depression, are much more disruptive and far more distressing than the typical “ups” and “downs” of daily life.  Unfortunately, people who have bipolar disorder have a higher risk for suicide than other people.

What is mania?

When a person is struggling with mania, their ability to function in their daily life can be severely impaired. They will have a constant, extremely “up” mood with an abnormally “revved” and hyper energy level, moving around without purpose. A manic person will be very distracted, and will be difficult to interrupt while they talk; they will have unrealistic ideas about their accomplishments or abilities and will come up with big ideas that they can’t stop thinking about. During a manic episode, you might notice disorganized thoughts, poor judgement and risky behaviors, such as unprotected sexual intercourse, or driving while impaired. Sometimes people with mania can have thoughts about self-harm and suicide.

What is bipolar depression?

The symptoms of bipolar depression cause significant distress and impairment in a person’s life.  Depression causes you to feel sad, empty, and awful about yourself. You can’t concentrate or make decisions and you lose interest in most things and people who used to make you happy. People who are depressed experience a change in sleep and appetite and stop caring about how they look and taking care of themselves. Sometimes, depression causes a person to have thoughts about death or suicide.

What is treatment for bipolar disorder?

Fortunately, there is treatment for bipolar disorder. If you’re not sure if your mood swings are normal, you might start with talking to an adult you trust. Sometimes talking about your difficulties can help you sort out what’s typical for you and put things in perspective. Also, keeping a regular routine with adequate sleep, a healthy diet, staying away from alcohol and drugs, and regular exercise can help.

When everything you try doesn’t work, it is best to talk to a counselor, therapist or doctor who will recommend a treatment for your symptoms. Treatment for bipolar disorder usually includes both psychotherapy (also called counseling or talking therapy) and medication. Read more about bipolar disorder and treatment for bipolar disorder here

Get help

If you or a person you know who is coping with bipolar disorder and talks about suicide, has thoughts about self-harm, or is acting in a manner that is overtly dangerous, it is extremely important to seek help immediately. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “START” to 741-741.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.