Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a treatable illness marked by extreme changes in mood, thoughts, energy and behavior. A person suffering from bipolar disorder can alternate between “poles” – mania (highs) and depressions (lows). These changes can last for hours, days, weeks or months. Almost 2 million American adults suffer from bipolar disorder, often having been misdiagnosed as depressed as a teenager.
An equal number of men and women develop this illness, with men usually exhibiting manic episodes at the onset and women exhibiting depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder is found amongst all races, ages, ethnic groups and social classes. Like depression and other mental illnesses, genetics play a factor in developing bipolar disorder. If a family member has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, there is an increased risk for other members of the family.