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

Traveler on a journey with train
How Mania Varies Between the Bipolar Types: An Overview
Young businesswoman having healthy lunch and using laptop
When Manic or Depressive Episodes Have Mixed Features
Two men talking and walking
5 Tips for Explaining Your Bipolar Disorder to Loved Ones
Young business man working at his desk
Depressive and Hypomanic Symptoms of Bipolar III or Cyclothymia
Close-up of female patient hands with medical identity bracelet
Why You Should Wear a Medical ID If You Ha ve Bipolar Disorder
Girl with an ecstasy tablet on her tongue, smiley faced pill, UK 2004
The Effects of Ecstasy (MDMA) Use By People With Bipolar Disorder
a woman standing in front of a bookshelf full of books
The DSM-5 Updated How Bipolar Disorder Is Diagnosed
Young Woman Crying In Bed
How Psychomotor Activity Relates to Bipolar Disorder
Young woman reclining on couch, psychologist looking at her in background.
When Your Bipolar Diagnosis Is Inconclusive
man and woman hugging and smiling on a beach
Advice for Dating Someone When They Have Bipolar Disorder
sad child holding door frame
Can a Child Inherit Bipolar Disorder From His or Her Parents?
a man praying in the water
How Bipolar Disorder Can Create Harmful Delusions With Religion
woman laughing
Pseudobulbar Affect May Explain Uncontrollable Crying or Laughing
A woman with depression symptoms.
Lupus Can Affect Your Brain and Cause Psychiatric Symptoms
Depressed woman with head in hands
Why Are There so Many Classifications of Bipolar Disorder?
Jury in a Courtroom
Can You Be Excused From Jury Duty If You Have Bipolar Disorder?
Worried student sitting with head in hands at desk
What Is a Thought Disorder?
Woman crying with head in hands.
What Is Emotional Lability?
Blone woman wearing a V-neck white and red horizontal stripe shirt with disheveled hair cut to her nape of her neck
What Are the Symptoms of Somatic Delusions?
Woman holding her head in distress
Here's Everything to Know About Thought Broadcasting
A woman with bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder With Anxious Distress
Portrait of woman (60yrs) sitting on couch at home
What Is Euthymic Mood in Bipolar Disorder?
Woman with bipolar disorder waking up from a nightmare
Vivid Dreams and Nightmares in Bipolar Disorder
depressed man in bed
How Is Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder Treated?
Man gesturing to woman leaving.
How Delusions Can Be a Symptom of Psychosis in Bipolar Disorder
Woman sitting on steps with head in her hands
Anxiety and Panic Disorders That Can Occur With Bipolar Disorder
Tardive dyskinesia illustrated in a photo of a man
How to Know If Facial Tics Are a Sign of Tardive Dyskinesia
Woman with images reflected in glasses
Ideas and Delusions of Reference in Bipolar Disorder
Mood incongruence
Bipolar Mood Incongruence Associated With Suicide Risk
Therapist working with client
Diagnosing a Mixed Episode in Bipolar Disorder
Couple arguing on city street
How Clang Associations Happen in Psychotic Episodes
Woman looking in mirror
Symptoms and Treatments for Psychosis
woman sleeping grinding teeth
What Is Bruxism?
middle-aged woman gambling on electronic casino game
The Different Types of Bipolar Episodes
Sad woman hugging her knees
When to Call Your Psychiatrist or Go to the ER for Emergent Symptoms
close up of nervous person's hands
Treatment of Psychomotor Agitation in Bipolar Disorder
Thoughtful woman
Delusions and Hallucinations in Bipolar Psychosis
Are you Hallucinating?
What Is a Hallucination?
Lost and alone
How Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia Are Similar but Different
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
What Is Apathy?
Young man pushing snooze button on alarm clock
How Sleep Problems Can Worsen Your Bipolar Disorder Symptoms
mature woman looking at pill bottles
What Is Akathisia?
sad woman eating alone in cafe
Can Bipolar Disorder Put You at Risk of Having a Gluten Sensitivity?
Manic Hypersexuality
The Connection Between Bipolar Disorder and Hypersexuality
thoughtful woman
How Racing Thoughts Can Be a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder
Male executive listening to his colleagues' conversation in an office
What Are the Symptoms of Paranoia?
a man depicted with several facial expressions
Recognize and Cope With Racing Thoughts and Flight of Ideas
Depressed Young Adult
How Neuroscience Helps Explain Impulsive Behaviors in Bipolar Disorder
Why Did Manic Depression Become Bipolar Disorder?
Pensive woman looking into distance
Bipolar Disorder and Catatonic Behavior
Woman wearing very brightly colored clothing
What Is a Manic Episode?
Woman holding shopping bags
What Is Hypomania?
A woman laughing
How Do You Spot Signs of Bipolar Mania in Yourself and Others?
The Difference Between Hyper Behavior and Bipolar Mania
Grandiose Delusions in Bipolar Mania
Young man hugging his girlfriend on a pier
How to Maintain a Sex Life With Bipolar Disorder
Pressured Speech
Can Pressured Speech Be a Symptom of Hypomania in Bipolar Disorder?
Woman wearing athletic wear lying on back with hands placed on lower abdomen
Self-Help Techniques to Calm the Fight-or-Flight Response

Explore Bipolar Disorder

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.