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What is bipolar depression?

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Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a neurological condition that causes severe imbalances in mood, energy and sociological function, the National Institute of Mental Health states. People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of intense emotion where they struggle with mood swings or act out of character. For example, the person becomes excessively cheerful or energetic during manic periods but feels sad, tired and discouraged during depressive periods.

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Common signs of bipolar disorder include euphoria, distraction, poor judgment, irritation, aggression, rapid speech, delusions and inflated self-esteem during manic episodes, according to Mayo Clinic. During depressive episodes, individuals may experience fatigue, suicidal thoughts, lack of concentration, anxiety, hopelessness and disinterest in their normal activities.

The three major subtypes of bipolar disorder are classified by their severity. Cyclothymic disorder is the mildest form with the least disruptive mood swings, while bipolar II disorder causes moderate forms of mania and depression, Mayo Clinic states. Bipolar I disorder is the most disruptive form, often interfering with an individual's work, school or social activities.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder usually appear during the teen years, and individuals are more likely to develop the condition if their parent also has it, NIMH notes. Neurological researchers are uncertain why the brain develops bipolar disorder, but brain scans suggest a person's neurological connections form in an irregular pattern in early childhood.

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