Bipolar disorder, like all mental illnesses, is poorly understood and still carries with it a stigma that diseases of the body generally do not. There are few other diseases for which sufferers will be told to "get over it" or "just cheer up."
In the manic phase, bipolars are characterized by poor impulse control, racing thoughts, insomnia, poor social skills, and, often, great creativity.
In the depressed phase, bipolars are characterized by an inability to care about much of anything, inability to visualize a worthwhile future, insomnia coupled with a great desire to sleep, and suicidal impulses.
Some bipolars remain in one state for extended periods of time. Others switch between states with great frequency.
Obsessive Compulsive DIsorder is not uncommon among bipolars and is especially evident in the manic phase. Addictions of all types are common among bipolars both due to the lack of impulse control and the desire to self-medicate the bad feelings.
There is no cure.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2002. I and my therapist at the time explored the origins of my condition and agree that I have probably exhibited symptoms of the disease since childhood. As bipolars can tell you, medication for the condition is a mixed blessing. We tend to enjoy the manic phases, but the meds take these peaks away from us at the same time they reduce the depths of the depressed phases. The result tends to be what I often call the "blah" phase. I believe this is why so many bipolars resist medication. It may also be why so many attempt suicide.