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Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings. These can range from extreme highs (mania) to extreme lows (depression).
Episodes of mania and depression often last for several weeks or months.
During a period of depression, your symptoms may include:
The manic phase of bipolar disorder may include:
If you have bipolar disorder, you may have episodes of depression more regularly than episodes of mania, or vice versa.
Between episodes of depression and mania, you may sometimes have periods where you have a "normal" mood.
The patterns aren't always the same and some people may experience:
If your mood swings last a long time but aren't severe enough to be classed as bipolar disorder, you may be diagnosed with cyclothymia (a mild form of bipolar disorder).
Bipolar disorder is a condition of extremes. A person with the condition may be unaware they're in the manic phase.
After the episode is over, they may be shocked at their behaviour. However, at the time, they may believe other people are being negative or unhelpful.
Some people with bipolar disorder have more frequent and severe episodes than others. The extreme nature of the condition means staying in a job may be difficult and relationships may become strained. There's also an increased risk of suicide.
During episodes of mania and depression, someone with bipolar disorder may experience strange sensations, such as seeing, hearing or smelling things that aren't there (hallucinations).
They may also believe things that seem irrational to other people (delusions). These types of symptoms are known as psychosis or a psychotic episode.
Read more about living with bipolar disorder.