FAQ - What is bipolar depression?

The distinguishing characteristic of Bipolar Disorder, as compared to other mood disorders, is the presence of at least one manic episode. Additionally, it is presumed to be a chronic condition because the vast majority of individuals who have one manic episode have additional episodes in the future. The statistics suggest that four episodes in ten years is an average, without preventative treatment. Every individual with bipolar disorder has a unique pattern of mood cycles, combining depression and manic episodes, that is specific to that individual, but predictable once the pattern is identified. Research studies suggest a strong genetic influence in bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. It is often not recognized as a psychological problem, because it is episodic. Consequently, those  who have it may suffer needlessly for years without treatment.