Bipolar Disorder

This information is useful for adults
Why Yale Medicine?
  • Our physicians and healthcare workers are trained in the latest interventions and treatments for bipolar disorder.
  • We provide a calm, supportive environment for people with bipolar disorder.
  • We provide a variety of pharmacological and behavioral treatment strategies for patients who have bipolar disorder.
  • Our researchers are exploring cutting-edge genetics analysis and novel medications for mental illness, including bipolar disorder.

You may have heard about celebrities who struggle with bipolar disorder. Due to a persistent stigma attached to this serious mental disorder, people may delay seeking help. The good news is that with proper treatment you or someone you know can live a productive life. 

A person with bipolar disorder experiences extreme highs and lows for short or sustained periods of time. During manic, or high-energy, periods, impulsiveness can be difficult to control, leading to shopping frenzies, for example. At the other extreme, depressive episodes reflect the same symptoms found in clinical depression, including low moods and energy.

While it is a serious illness, with proper, ongoing treatment, those with bipolar disorder can often regain stability and thrive. “We are fortunate at Yale to have many faculty members with expertise in the research and treatment of mood disorders,” says Hilary Blumberg, MD, a Yale Medicine psychiatrist and director of the Mood Disorders Research Program at Yale School of Medicine.

Mania. The hallmark of bipolar disorder is a manic episode that lasts at least one week. Mania is an excessively elevated mood state that includes feelings of euphoria. It might also cause a person to be uncharacteristically irritable and quick to get into conflicts. When people are experiencing mania, they might get only a few hours of sleep, yet feel rested. They might throw themselves into projects, buy things that they can’t afford, and/or engage in risky sexual behaviors. 

Depression. Most people with bipolar disorder also have one or more episodes of severe depression. These periods—which last two weeks or longer—are marked by sadness, a lack of pleasure, low energy and a lack of productivity. Individuals with bipolar disorder often spend more time depressed than in elevated mood states.

As with many mental health conditions, both forms of bipolar disorder exist on a spectrum. Some people only have one or two manic episodes in their lifetime, whereas others frequently cycle between mania and depression.

Suicidal thoughts and behaviors. There is a very high risk of suicide among those with bipolar disorder. Up to 50 percent will make a suicide attempt and 15 to 20 percent will die by suicide. Research has shown that treatment can reduce suicide risk.

Clinical Trials

New treatments for many conditions are tested in clinical trials, which ultimately bring lifesaving new drugs and devices to the patients who need them most. By participating in a clinical trial, you may get access to the most advanced treatments for your condition, and help determine their benefits for future patients.