Common Questions

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic-depressive illness, is a disorder of the brain that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. Bipolar disorder is a treatable mental disorder. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, nearly six million adult Americans are affected by bipolar disorder. It usually begins in late adolescence (often appearing as depression during the teen years), although it can start in early childhood or later in life. An equal number of men and women develop this disorder (men tend to begin with a manic episode, women with a depressive episode), and it is found among all ages, races, ethnic groups and social classes. The disorder tends to run in families and appears to have a genetic link like depression and other serious illnesses.

According to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, some symptoms of manic episodes include the following:

  • Excessive irritability, aggressive behavior
  • Heightened mood, exaggerated optimism and self-confidence
  • Decreased need for sleep without experiencing fatigue
  • Grandiose thoughts, inflated sense of self-importance
  • Racing speech, racing thoughts, flight of ideas Impulsiveness, poor judgment, distractibility
  • Reckless behavior In the most severe cases, delusions and hallucinations

Symptoms of depressive episodes include:

  • Significant changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells Irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety
  • Pessimism, indifference Loss of energy, persistent lethargy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness Inability to concentrate, indecisiveness Inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Bipolar disorder is a very treatable Mental Illness and there are many FDA approved medications for management of Bipolar Disorder.

Regular exercise and eating a balanced diet are very important steps for living a healthy, disease-free life and may help a person recover faster from illness, but in the absence of treatment, these steps are not effective for chronic depression. Often, people suffering from depression may wait for months to years before seeking professional treatment.

Depression is caused by a combination of genes and environment. Genes can predispose you to the development of illness and environmental stress can precipitate an acute episode of an illness. We hope you find these tips helpful in understanding depression and seeking appropriate, timely help.

Mental illnesses are real, prevalent, do not discriminate, and the stigma can limit a person from seeking help. 35 million adults experience a moderate or severe mental disorder in any year. One in five adults will experience a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. About 15% of those will also experience a co-occurring substance use disorder. At some point during his or her lifetime, the average American adult has a 46% chance of developing one or more mental illness or substance abuse disorders. 29% will suffer an anxiety disorder, 25% will suffer an impulse-control disorder, 21% will suffer a mood disorder (i.e., depression), and 15% will suffer a substance abuse disorder.

Mental illnesses can affect anyone – mental illnesses can affect African Americans, Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native American, Pacific Islanders, or White Americans. Mental illnesses can occur at any stage of life, from childhood to old age. No community is unaffected by mental illnesses; no school or workplace is untouched. Everyone is touched by mental illnesses, because they affect our families, our coworkers, and our neighbors.


  • U.S. Presidents: Abraham Lincoln (depression)
  • World leaders: Winston Churchill (bipolar disorder)
  • CEOs: Tom Johnson, CEO of CNN
  • Athletes: Terry Bradshaw (anxiety and depression)
  • Musicians: Ludwig van Beethoven (bipolar disorder)
  • Writers: Tennessee Williams (depression)
  • Artists: Vincent Van Gogh (bipolar disorder)
  • Comedians: Robin Williams
  • Journalists: Mike Wallace, 60 Minutes.

Most people suffering do not seek help – one in five Americans experiences a mental health disorder in any given year, but only one-third seek care. People often suffer for years. According to NIMH, people who do seek treatment typically do so after a decade or more of delays, during which time they are likely to develop additional problems. People suffering often do not seek help because of stigma and misperceptions surrounding mental disorders and their treatment.

Mental illnesses are disabling – mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders represent the top 5 causes of disability among people age 15-44 in the US and Canada (employed and unemployed populations). They are also the fifth leading cause of short-term disability and third leading cause of long-term disability for employers in the U.S. The World Health Organization estimates that mental illness accounts for 25% of all disability in the US, Canada, and Western Europe.