what is bipolar disorder

More than 5 million people in the United States have bipolar disorder.
People with bipolar disorder typically have mood swings that range from highs called mania, to lows called depression.
Unless you have severe mania, bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness marked by extreme mood swings from high to low, and from low to high. Highs are periods of mania, while lows are periods of depression. The mood swings may even become mixed, so you might feel elated and depressed at the same time.

Bipolar disorder isn’t a rare diagnosis. A 2005 study found that 2.6 percent of the U.S. population, or more than 5 million people, are living with some form of bipolar disorder. Symptoms tend to appear in a person’s late teens or early adult years, but they can occur in children as well. Women are more likely to receive bipolar diagnoses than men, though the reason for this remains unclear.

Bipolar disorder can be hard to diagnose, but there are warning signs or symptoms that you can look for.

Mania can cause other symptoms as well, but seven of the key signs of this phase of bipolar disorder are:

feeling overly happy or “high” for long periods of time
having a decreased need for sleep
talking very fast, often with racing thoughts
feeling extremely restless or impulsive
becoming easily distracted
having overconfidence in your abilities
engaging in risky behavior, such as having impulsive sex, gambling with life savings, or going on big spending sprees