Mood changes are often responses to changes in your life. Hearing bad news can make you sad or angry. A fun vacation brings about feelings of happiness. For most people, such emotional highs and lows are temporary and appropriate to the situation. For people with bipolar disorder, however, dramatic shifts in mood can emerge at any time and last for long periods, called episodes.

Types of episodes

Bipolar disorder symptoms can occur as manic, hypomanic, or depressive episodes. Some episodes can include symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. This phenomenon is called a mixed state, or a mood episode with mixed features.

Episodes may be sporadic, and there may not be any symptoms between episodes. For some, manic and depressive episodes may be frequent and interfere with work and relationships.

Manic episodes

A manic episode is a period of extreme happiness, overly outgoing behavior, or extreme irritability combined with increased energy. These episodes last for one or more weeks and may result in hospitalization.

Someone in a manic episode may:

  • talk very quickly or loudly or interrupt others
  • be frequently distracted and unable to focus on one task or thought at a time
  • require less sleep than they usually do
  • go on spending sprees
  • engage in risky sexual behavior
  • have an unusually high self-esteem

Moods can shift rapidly from happiness to anger, sadness, or irritability during a manic episode. The symptoms are severe enough to cause problems at work or in one’s personal life. A person experiencing a manic episode may not know they are ill and may not want to seek treatment.

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