Mariah Carey says she has bipolar disorder; a psychiatrist explains what that is

Mariah Carey recently opened up about her struggle with bipolar disorder.

As an assistant professor of psychiatry, I see her courage as an opportunity to explain bipolar disorder, a mood disorder that includes episodes of elevated mood, as well as episodes of depression.

There are two common types: Bipolar I disorder includes manic episodes in which a person experiences heightened or, at times, an irritable mood, for at least a week. This includes high energy, inflated self-esteem, reduced need for sleep, talkativeness or pressured speech, overspending, reckless risky behavior, racing thoughts, increased goal-directed behavior and a substantially increased sex drive. Symptoms are a clear departure from person’s baseline behavior. A patient in a manic episode may have all or some of these symptoms, none of which are induced by drug use.

Bipolar II disorder includes hypomanic episodes, a mood episode that includes the same symptoms at lower severity for a shorter time (four days at least) and without significant impairment of person’s functioning.

It is important to note the required duration of days to avoid a common mistake: Too often people are labeled with this diagnosis because of emotional instability or changes in mood over the course of hours, as a result of stressful events or other psychiatric conditions. I always make sure patients who believe they have this condition know the definition and substantial sustained nature of the episodes.