There are 2 million Americans affected by bipolar disorder. Fortunately, it is a medical condition which can be treated successfully with medical help.

Bipolar disorder is an illness in which a person experiences episodes of both depression and mania (generally a euphoric state of mind). Experiencing these depressive and manic episodes is like being at two opposite poles of the earth - hence the word, "bipolar." This switching from one extreme to the other is called cycling.

In general, men experience manic episodes more often than depressive episodes, while women tend to have more depressive episodes. An episode can last days, weeks or months. A person can also switch frequently from depression to mania and back again. Some people go through long periods between episodes where they function well and feel fine.

The most common symptoms of a depressive episode are:

In a manic episode, one thing is clear - the person is not his or her normal self. The most common symptoms of a manic episode are: