If you’re bipolar, you experience extreme high and low moods that affect your thinking, behavior and energy. You may also have problems with sleep and your relationships. These changes can make it hard to get along with others or succeed at work and school.

During manic episodes, you feel overly happy and energized. You may also have hallucinations or delusions, which are often centered on feelings that you’re important, talented or powerful. During these episodes, you don’t realize the negative consequences of your actions and may take reckless risks. This can include making bad financial decisions or taking drugs and alcohol without a doctor’s help. Some people with severe bipolar disorder have psychotic symptoms, such as having hallucinations and delusions. These symptoms can cause you to be dangerous to yourself or other people and need to be treated in a hospital.

The causes of bipolar aren’t known, but a mix of genes and stressful life events can lead to it. Your chances of getting the condition are higher if a family member has it or you have a history of depression in your family. Stressful events, such as a death in the family, a relationship problem, a job loss, a major illness, divorce or financial problems, can trigger an episode for some people. A study of twins found that even identical twins who have the same genes can get different responses to stress and life events.

People with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of physical illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. You should talk to your doctor about having regular health screenings. You can also improve your overall wellness by eating a balanced diet, getting enough rest, exercising regularly and not smoking or misusing drugs or alcohol.

A doctor can diagnose bipolar disorder by examining you and asking questions about your moods, thoughts, feelings and family history. They will check to see if you have other medical conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as thyroid problems or a brain tumor. They will ask about your past history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts. You may be asked to do a blood test or X-ray to rule out other causes.

Treatment for bipolar disorder includes medications and therapy. You might have group or individual therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, your therapist helps you take a close look at your beliefs and thoughts and how they affect your actions. You learn to challenge negative and unhelpful thoughts so you can change your behaviors. Family-focused therapy can help you and your loved ones have less conflict and relate better.

Being open about your mood swings and getting the right kind of treatment can help you live a normal life. Stick with your treatment plan and keep in touch with your support network. You can also try to reduce stress in your life, as much as possible. Be patient, and remember that your mental illness didn’t happen by choice.