A person with bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition defined by periods (or episodes) of extreme mood disturbances that affect mood, thoughts, and behavior. There are two main types of bipolar disorders. Bipolar I disorder involves episodes of severe mania and often depression. Bipolar II disorder involves a less severe form of mania called hypomania. There is also a third type known as cyclothymic disorder.

Estimates suggest that around 4.4% of U.S. adults will have bipolar disorder at some point in their lives. Genetics are thought to play a significant role, although brain abnormalities and environmental factors also contribute as causes of bipolar disorder. Mood stabilizers are usually the first-line treatment, but electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be used to address severe symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes bipolar disorder?

    The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not entirely understood. Research has shown that genetics play a significant role. Other causes include changes in the brain as well as environmental factors including childhood trauma or stress caused by major life changes. Understanding the causes may help scientists develop ways to prevent or treat the condition.

  • Is bipolar disorder genetic?

    Research suggests there is a strong genetic component in bipolar disorder. Twin studies have found that when one identical twin has the condition, the likelihood that their twin sibling will also have it is around 40%. While there is a genetic vulnerability, inherited factors interact with environmental influences that can play a role in triggering the disorder’s onset.

  • How is bipolar disorder treated?

    Bipolar disorder is typically treated with medications and sometimes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), therapy, and psychoeducation. Common medications include mood stabilizers or anticonvulsants, as well as second or third generation antipsychotics. Antidepressants are typically avoided if possible due to risks including mania and rapid cycling.

  • Is bipolar disorder considered a disability?

    Your condition may be considered a disability that is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or qualifies you for disability payments. If your disability substantially limits your work, you may be able to request reasonable accommodations from your employer. You may qualify for disability benefits if your condition makes it impossible for you to maintain employment.

  • How do you know if you're bipolar?

    Only a doctor or qualified mental health professional can diagnose you with bipolar disorder. You may want to see your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of mania, depression, or both. Symptoms of mania can include talking excessively, racing thoughts, decreased sleep, and delusions. Symptoms of depression may include fatigue, prolonged sadness, and loss of interest in activities.

Key Terms

Explore Bipolar Disorder

Tired, stressed businesswoman at laptop with head in hands
An Overview of the Causes of Bipolar Disorder
Vulnerable mid adult man talks in group therapy meeting
Coping With Bipolar Stigma and Other Challenges
Moody child
Understanding Bipolar Disorder in Children
Bipolar disorder can be debilitating.
Does Bipolar Disorder Qualify You for Disability?
Young businesswoman having healthy lunch and using laptop
Dysphoric Mania in Bipolar Disorder
Two men talking and walking
5 Tips for Explaining Bipolar Disorder to Loved Ones
Young business man working at his desk
Bipolar III Disorder or Cyclothymia
Close-up of female patient hands with medical identity bracelet
Bipolar Disorder Medical ID Bracelets
Girl with an ecstasy tablet on her tongue, smiley faced pill, UK 2004
The Effect of MDMA on Bipolar Disorder
What Is a Delusion?
Delusions: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
a woman standing in front of a bookshelf full of books
Changes in the DSM-5 on Bipolar Disorder
Young Woman Crying In Bed
Role of Psychomotor Activity in Bipolar Disorder
Young woman reclining on couch, psychologist looking at her in background.
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS)
Young women sitting and talking at the coffee break
What Not to Say to Somebody With Bipolar Disorder
man and woman hugging and smiling on a beach
Dating Someone With Bipolar Disorder
sad child holding door frame
Chances of Having Hereditary Bipolar Disorder
a man praying in the water
Religious Factors in Bipolar Disorder
woman laughing
Differences Between Depression, Bipolarism, and PBA
Woman with period cramps
Effects of Premenstrual Symptoms on Bipolar Disorder
A woman with depression symptoms.
How Lupus Can Cause Bipolar-Like Mood Symptoms
Depressed woman with head in hands
Overview of Classifications of Bipolar Disorder
Jury in a Courtroom
Can Bipolar Disorder Get You Excused From Jury Duty?
A woman with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder With Anxious Distress
Portrait of woman (60yrs) sitting on couch at home
Euthymia in Bipolar Disorder
Woman with bipolar disorder waking up from a nightmare
Vivid Dreams and Nightmares in Bipolar Disorder
depressed man in bed
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Risks
Man gesturing to woman leaving.
Delusions Occurring in Bipolar Disorder
Woman sitting on steps with head in her hands
Anxiety and Panic Disorders Could Cause Bipolar Attack
Tardive dyskinesia illustrated in a photo of a man
Tardive Dyskinesia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Woman with images reflected in glasses
Ideas and Delusions of Reference in Bipolar Disorder
Mood incongruence
Mood Congruence and Incongruence in Bipolar Disorder
Therapist working with client
Mixed Episode Criteria for Bipolar Disorder
Couple arguing on city street
Clang Association in Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia
Woman looking in mirror
Psychosis: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
woman sleeping grinding teeth
Bruxism: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
middle-aged woman gambling on electronic casino game
Bipolar Disorder Episodes According to the DSM-V
Sad woman hugging her knees
Urgent and Emergent Psychiatric Symptoms and Signs
close up of nervous person's hands
Treatment of Psychomotor Agitation in Bipolar Disorder
Thoughtful woman
Symptoms of Bipolar Psychosis
Are you Hallucinating?
Hallucinations: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
Lost and alone
Differences Between Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia
Senior man in therapy
9 Things Not to Do if You or a Loved One is Bipolar
Woman at window
How Often Do People With Bipolar Disorder Cycle?
tired woman with her eyes closed at her desk
Apathy: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
Young man pushing snooze button on alarm clock
How Sleep and Bipolar Disorder Interact
mature woman looking at pill bottles
Akathisia: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
sad woman eating alone in cafe
The Connection Between Gluten and Bipolar Disorder
Manic Hypersexuality
Understanding Bipolar Disorder and Hypersexuality
thoughtful woman
Racing Thoughts and Bipolar Disorder
Male executive listening to his colleagues' conversation in an office
Paranoia: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
a man depicted with several facial expressions
Flight of Ideas in Bipolar Disorder
Depressed Young Adult
Expansive Mood as a Manic Symptom in Bipolar Disorder
Depression
How Manic Depression Became Bipolar Disorder
Pensive woman looking into distance
Bipolar Disorder and Catatonic Behavior
Woman wearing very brightly colored clothing
Mania: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
Woman holding shopping bags
Hypomania: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment
A woman laughing
Symptoms of Mania in Bipolar Disorder
Highliner
Bipolar Mania: Signs, Diagnosis, and Treatment
Grandiosity
Grandiosity in Bipolar Disorder
Young man hugging his girlfriend on a pier
The Impact of Bipolar Disorder on Sex
Page Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC. 2013.

  2. National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder. Updated November 2017.

  3. National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder. Updated January 2020.