It means the person's emotions are all messed up who has it, they can cycle between depressed and manic or hypomanic or a mixed state depending on what version of it they have. Mania is out of control sped up behavior and elevated mood. Depression is a lower than low slowed down mood that can be devastating to the person. Mania can also be devastating to the person, it just depends on who you are.
There are also a gazillion other weird symptoms that go with each of the states (depression, mania, hypomania, mixed episode). It's really complicated and there are different types of bipolar and each person is different.
Personally when I'm depressed I'm REALLY depressed and suicidal and I get physical symptoms (digestive and muscular) and I hallucinate. When I'm hypomanic I dance around high as a kite and then suddenly some sets me back into depression, which is much worse straight after hypomania. My mixed states manifest as a week of doing outrageous things, one second out of rage (i.e. screaming 'I HATE YOU ALL' at a crowd of people), then out of uninhibited euphoria (i.e. randomly grabbing a male and kissing him), then out of depression (i.e. trying to kill myself).
My mother was manic and I was depressed as the same time - I tried to kill myself and when people told her she laughed and didn't care 'cause she was so manic.
It's genetic, lifelong and although manageable by medication, it's never really gone. Sometimes takes years to diagnose and definitely takes years to find the proper medication balance. Manifests in late teens usually.
hi Lisa..its very hard to explain to someone thats not this way..but like the other answers..is the most part of the illness..once you went threw a maninc or hypomanic or mixed ,,deppreshion..then you would no!! i suffer bp2 and ocd for the biggest part oh sad also witch hits me hard in winter,..no matter what meds im on...i just keep on trying to understand it all myself...i been studing medcail for 15 yrs...and this one is a real tough one..i know most meds..but the ( cycling or rapid) is real hard to learn...
I'm soon to marry the love of my life, and be his 10 year old's step-mom, but his previous wife had severe bi-polar episodes in her late 30's.
My concern is the behavior of our 10 year old, How early did you start to notice similarities between your behavior and your mother's symptoms of bipolar?