How is bipolar affective disorder (manic-depressive illness) characterized?

Updated: May 30, 2019
  • Author: Stephen Soreff, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of deep, prolonged, and profound depression that alternate with periods of an excessively elevated or irritable mood known as mania. This pattern of alternating severe depression and periods of mania is characteristic of bipolar disorder type I (BPI), although in rarer cases, persons may only experience episodes of mania. In practice, symptoms of mania and depression can also occur together in what is termed a mixed state as the illness evolves. By contrast, bipolar disorder type II (BPII) is diagnosed when episodes of severe depression are punctuated with periods of hypomania, a less severe form of mania that does not include psychosis or lead to gross impairment in functioning. A diagnosis of cyclothymic disorder is given to individuals with periods of both hypomanic and depressive symptoms without meeting the full criteria for mania, hypomania or major depression.

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