Bipolar Disorder

Q:What is bipolar disorder?          

A: A brain disorder marked by bouts of extreme and impairing changes in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms may emerge either suddenly or gradually during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood.

Q: Can bipolar disorder be cured?

A: Clinical depression and bipolar disorder tend to be episodic in nature. These illnesses are treatable, but right now cannot be cured. The goal of treatment should be to manage the disease, decrease the severity of  depressive and manic episodes and keep recurrences to a minimum.

Q: What is the difference between depression and bipolar illness?

A: Clinical depression is also called "unipolar" depression because a person's mood swings only in one direction - down. Normal periods are separated by a steady drop in mood, which becomes lower and lower. In contrast, manic depression is "bipolar," because the mood swings range from low to high (manic) and back again.

Q: Is there a connection between alcohol or drug abuse and bipolar disorder?

A: Yes, definitely. A significant number of teenagers who abuse these substances are really suffering from an underlying mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. Without realizing it, they may be trying to "self medicate" their symptoms of clinical depression or manic depressive illness.

Teens with mood disorders who abuse alcohol or drugs may seek these substances because they temporarily offer relaxation, or help them feel more confident or energetic. Unfortunately, this is temporary and can cause the depression to worsen, resulting in two serious conditions rather than one.

Q: How can I tell whether someone is bipolar or just dealing with stress?

A: Doctors look for the following symptoms.

Symptoms of mania may include:

  • Elevated mood—silliness or extreme happiness that is inappropriate
  • Grandiosity—inflated sense of importance
  • Racing speech and thoughts
  • Talking more than usual
  • Irritability or hostility
  • Excessive distractibility
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Reckless behavior or poor judgment (daredevil acts, hypersexuality)
  • Hallucinations and psychosis 

Symptoms of depression may include:

  • Lack of pleasure in life
  • Withdrawal from favorite activities
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and/or crying spells
  • Sleeping too much or inability to sleep
  • Drop in grades or inability to concentrate
  • Thoughts of death and suicide
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Significant weight loss, weight gain or change in appetite 

 (Source: - Frequently Asked Question about Bipolar Disorder)



"Up/Down" is a documentary on Bipolar DIsorder. There are approximately 5.7 million people in the United States with bipolar disorder. In an attempt to eliminate the mystery and misinformation surrounding the illness, many throughout the country diagnosed with this condition were interviewed extensively. They diligently explain the struggle to balance hemselves betwee floating to a state of euphoria and sinking into devastating depression. In short, "Up/Down" is a personal analysis of bipolar disorder from those living with it.


Bipolar Organizations and Related Resources

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) - The DBSA envisions wellness for people who live with depression and bipolar disorder. Because DBSA was created for and is led by individuals living with mood disorders. Their vision, mission, and programming are always informed by the personal, lived experience of peers. They have more than 750 support groups and nearly 300 chapters. They reach millions each year with in-person and online peer support, readliy available information on depression and bipolar disorder, and empowering tools focused on an integrated approach to wellness.

International Bipolar Foundation - The IBF's mission is to eliminate bipolar disorder through the advancement of research; to promote and enhance care and support services; and to erase associated stigma through public education. 

The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research - A memorial fund for bipolar research in memory of bluesman, Sean Costello. 

Ask a - this is a site where a group of people suffering from bipolar disorder, as well as many other mental illnesses, answer your questions based on their experiences. They aren't professionals and don't claim to be. They believe it is important to hear that someone understands what you may be going through. They have a blog, stories, and an ask a question section.

The Balanced Mind Foundation - Guides families raising children with mood disorders to the answers, support and stability they seek. They provide a family helpline, online support groups for parents of children with depression or bipolar disorder, an award winning blog and podcast, and other resources. They envision a world where children living with mood disorders thrive because their famliies have the resources, community and support they need. Recently joined forces with DBSA.

Bipolar Articles and Research -