ZocdocAnswersIs bipolar disorder a mental illness?

Question

Is bipolar disorder a mental illness?

I've always been very moody and recently worrying after being depressed for weeks worrying that I might be bipolar because I'm having trouble sleeping, feel crazy. What should I do? If this is really a mental illness I should do something.

Answer

I am sorry that you have been having these various concerns. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness and even if you do not have bipolar disorder you should be evaluated by your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms, possible medical etiologies, and to consider mental health referral. Bipolar disorder is actually a fairly common mental illness and is a lifelong disorder. The hallmark of bipolar disorder is changes between depression and mania. Mania is characterized by a decreased need for sleep, reckless behavior, thought disturbances, and pressured speech. To make the diagnosis of bipolar, manic episodes lasting at least 1 week must be present. There are variations of bipolar disorder that are not quite as severe in both the depression and mania periods. Though the cause is not known, there is a genetic component, so, for example, a first degree relative of a patient with bipolar disorder is almost seven times more likely to develop the disorder than the average person. There are various other disorders whose symptoms are similar to bipolar disorder including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, thyroid abnormalities, and lupus. You should speak with your primary care physician regarding your symptoms to discuss further work up, possible need for mental health evaluation, and possible diagnoses.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.