Bipolar Disorder

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known by its older name “manic depression,” is a mental disorder that is characterized by serious mood swings. A person with bipolar disorder experiences alternating “highs” (what clinicians called “mania” and “lows” (also known as depression).

Both the manic and depressive periods can be brief, from just a few hours to a few days, or longer, lasting up to several weeks or even months. The periods of mania and depression vary from person to person — many people may only experience very brief periods of these intense moods, and may not even be aware that they have bipolar disorder.

Types of Bipolar

Bipolar I

A person affected by bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode in his or her life. A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life.

Bipolar II

Bipolar II is similar to bipolar I disorder, with moods cycling between high and low over time. However, in bipolar II disorder, the “up” moods never reach full-on mania.

Rapid Cycling

In rapid cycling, a person with bipolar disorder experiences four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. About 10% to 20% of people with bipolar disorder have rapid cycling.

Mixed Bipolar

In most forms of bipolar disorder, moods alternate between elevated and depressed over time. But with mixed bipolar disorder, a person experiences both mania and depression simultaneously or in rapid sequence.

During a manic phase, symptoms include:

  • Heightened sense of self-importance
  • Exaggerated positive outlook
  • Significantly decreased need for sleep
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Racing speech, flight of ideas, impulsiveness
  • Ideas that move quickly from one subject to the next
  • Poor concentration, easy distractibility
  • Increased activity level
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities
  • Poor financial choices, rash spending sprees
  • Excessive irritability, aggressive behavior

During a depressed phase, symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable or usual activities
  • Difficulty sleeping; early-morning awakening
  • Loss of energy and constant lethargy
  • Sense of guilt or low self-esteem
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Negative thoughts about the future
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Talk of suicide or death

Bipolar Disorder Screening Quiz

Developed by Ivan Goldberg, M.D

The items below refer to how you have felt and behaved over much of your life. If you have usually been one way, and have recently changed, your responses should reflect how you have usually been. In order for the results of this quiz to be most accurate, you should be 18 or older and have had at least one episode of depression.

1) At times I am much more talkative or speak much faster than usual.
2) There have been times when I was much more active or did many more things than usual.
3) I get into moods where I feel very 'speeded-up' or irritable.
4) There have been times when I have felt both high (elated) and low (depressed) at the same time.
5) I have been much more interested in sex than usual.
6) My self-confidence ranges from great self-doubt to equally great overconfidence.
7) There have been GREAT variations in the quantity or quality of my work.
8) For no apparent reason I sometimes have been VERY angry or hostile.
9) I have periods of mental dullness and other periods of very creative thinking.
10) At times I am greatly interested in being with people and at other times I just want to be left alone with my thoughts.
11) I have had periods of great optimism and other periods of equally great pessimism.
12) I have had periods of tearfulness and crying and other times when I laugh and joke excessively.


This screening is intended solely to help identify the symptoms of bipolar disorder. It’s intended to educate and not designed to provide a clinical diagnosis. An accurate diagnosis for bipolar disorder can only be made by a physician or qualified mental health professional after a complete evaluation, including a physical exam, to rule out any other medical illnesses or conditions that may account for symptoms. Your use of this website constitutes your agreement to the provisions of this disclaimer.