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Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by extreme shifts in mood ranging from a periods of extremely elevated, elated, and energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very sad, “down,” or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Bipolar disorder is formerly known as manic depression. Approximately 2.6% of the US population is diagnosed with a bipolar disorder each year.

A person experiencing a manic episode may feel excited, impulsive, euphoric, and full of energy. He or she might engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors during manic episodes such as drug use, spending sprees, and/or compulsive risky sexual behaviors. Individuals experiencing a depressive episode might experience hopelessness, sadness, loss of energy, loss of interest in once enjoyable activities, sleep difficulties, concentration difficulties, and suicidal thoughts.

Individuals with bipolar disorder typically have trouble managing everyday life. They may perform poorly at school or work, and may have trouble maintaining personal relationships. During severe manic or depressive episodes, a person with bipolar disorder may need to be hospitalized. 



Manic Episode Symptoms

  • Feeling very “up,” “high,” or elated

  • Having a lot of energy

  • Having increased activity levels

  • Feeling “jumpy” or “wired”

  • Having trouble sleeping

  • Becoming more active than usual

  • Talking really fast about a lot of different things

  • Being agitated, irritable, or “touchy”

  • Feeling like their thoughts are going very fast

  • Thinking they can do a lot of things at once

  • Doing risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex

Depressive Episode Symptoms

  • Feeling very sad, down, empty, or hopeless

  • Having very little energy

  • Having decreased activity levels

  • Having trouble sleeping (sleeping too little or too much)

  • Inability to enjoy anything

  • Feeling worried and empty

  • Having trouble concentrating

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Eating too much or too little

  • Feeling tired or “slowed down”

  • Thinking about death or suicide

Types of Bipolar Conditions

There are four basic types of bipolar disorder; all of them involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels.

  • Bipolar I Disorder - manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depression and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible. 

  • Bipolar II Disorder -  a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes described above.

  • Cyclothymic Disorder -  numerous periods of hypomanic symptoms as well numerous periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

  • Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders -  bipolar disorder symptoms that do not match the three categories listed above.


Bipolar disorders are treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness. Episodes of mania and depression typically come back over time. Between episodes, many people with bipolar disorder are free of mood changes, but some people may have lingering symptoms. Long-term, continuous treatment helps to control these symptoms.


Medications generally used to treat bipolar disorder include mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants. If medication is deemed necessary, we refer patients to local providers that are experienced with psychopharmacological treatments for bipolar disorders.

Regarding psychotherapy, Dr. Harte uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. CBT is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on modifying problematic thoughts and behaviors that contribute to and/or maintain bipolar symptoms. CBT is short term, goal directed, and solution focused. At each visit, progress is measured objectively; this provides you and Dr. Harte with useful feedback so that services can be adjusted to best meet your needs. 

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