Bipolar disorder refers to a spectrum of mood disorders marked by instability of emotional expression that is cyclic in nature. Bipolar disorder is a biological medical illness due to changes in brain function and activity. Genetics may play an active role. This disorder can dramatically interfere with normal life functioning, disrupt family life, employment and friendships.
In traditional bipolar disorder individuals have cycles of manic mood (elation, euphoria, spending sprees, heightened energy, lack of need for sleep, grandiose thinking, increased sexual drive, pressured speech, flight of ideas, etc) usually followed by a depressive crash (low energy, increased of decreased sleep, increased of decreased appetite, negative thoughts, sadness and crying, hopelessness, helplessness, suicidal thinking, social isolation, reduced attention concentration, impaired memory and decision making, lack of interests and motivation, etc.).
Some individuals suffer from rapid cycling disorder, experiencing more that 4 cycles of highs and lows a year. Cycling can be so frequent that normal mood expression is dwarfed by pathological mood states.
A major complication of bipolar disorder is substance abuse. Individuals with bipolar disorder may abuse illicit substances to self medicate the emotional pain they experience as the result of their mood swings. Individuals are also known to “chase the high” by abusing drugs to maximize or maintain the manic state.