What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Dr. Igor Galynker answers the question: 'What Is Bipolar Disorder?'

ByIgor Galynker, M.D., Ph.D., Director, The Family Center for Bipolar Disorder, Beth Israel Medical Center
November 20, 2008, 4:06 PM

— -- Question: What is bipolar disorder?

Answer: Bipolar disorder is a brain disease; it's a chronic disease just like diabetes, or lupus, or cardiovascular disease. It can start at any time in a person's life and it's a lifelong illness. It is not curable, but it is treatable with medications and psychotherapy.

The symptoms of the illness are extreme mood swings. A person can alternate either highly irritability, or euphoria, or sometimes a combination of both with periods of extreme depression, and sometimes can become suicidal. At times people can have both symptoms of irritability and depression at the same time. It's a very common illness. Up to four percent of the American population has this illness. So the good news; that it is treatable, and the medications work, and people with bipolar illness can have productive lives like anybody else. Once they're in treatment and compliant with treatment.

Next: What Are The Most Common Signs And Symptoms Of Bipolar Disorder, And Can It Affect People Differently?

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