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Bipolar symptoms: What to look for (pictures)

woman, sad, window, seasonal affective disorder, istockphoto, 4x3
Bipolar disorder symptoms can range from low to very high - a state called mania. istockphoto

(CBS) What is bipolar disorder? What are the symptoms? What causes it?

People are searching for answers to those questions, now that glamorous actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has revealed she is one of the millions of Americans who have the mental illness.

PICTURES - Bipolar disorder: Symptoms of mania

A mood disorder, bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings - from the lows of depression to the extreme highs of mania. It's caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and tends to run in families, though it is sometimes triggered by psychological stress.

Zeta-Jones, 41, sought treatment after her life hit a rough patch, her representative told People magazine. Zeta-Jones' husband, Michael Douglas, was diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer last year.

Bipolar disorder can be devastating, disrupting lives and sometimes leading to suicide. But the good news for Zeta-Jones and fellow bipolar sufferers is that the illness can often be managed with medication - typically a mood-stabilizer - and psychotherapy.

In addition, certain lifestyle strategies often prove helpful, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. These include keeping a regular daily routine, taking steps to minimize psychological stress, avoiding caffeine, and joining a support group.

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