Bipolar Disorder


Bipolar DisorderBipolar Disorder

Sometimes individuals experience severe mood swings from periods of extreme depression to periods of exaggerated joy.  This behavior pattern may be diagnosed as bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder or manic-depressive illness is defined by the DSM 1V-TR of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) as an illness that involves episodes of serious mania and depression. The individual's mood usually swings from overly "high" and irritable (mania) to sad and hopeless (depression) and then back again, with periods of normal moods interspersed. When in the depressed stage, a person can have any or all of the symptoms of a depressive disorder. When in the manic stage, the individual may be overactive, overly talkative, and have a great deal of energy. Mania affects thinking, judgment, and social behavior, sometimes in ways that cause serious problems and embarrassment. A person in a manic phase may feel elated, full of grand schemes that might range from unwise business decisions to romantic sprees. Mania, left untreated, may worsen to the point where the person is no longer in touch with reality.

Depression is manifested by a combination of symptoms that interfere with the ability to work, study, sleep, eat, and enjoy once pleasurable activities. Symptoms of depression also include persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness, decreased energy, fatigue, decrease in sexual interest and activity, difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions, problem with sleep patterns, appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain, thoughts of death or suicide, and restlessness and irritability.

Mania is manifested by a combination of symptoms including excessive elation, irritability, a decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts and excessive talking, poor judgment, jumping from one project/idea to another with little follow through, and inappropriate social behavior.

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is still not established. Many people with a bipolar disorder have a family history of manic depression and there is strong evidence to support a biological and hereditary component to the disorder. However, bipolar disorder also appears in persons with no previous family history of the disorder.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder

There is no known cure for the bipolar disorder but it is treatable with medication and therapy. In addition to therapy, other important treatment components involves exercise, a regulated sleep and meal plan, avoiding stress, caffeine, alcohol and illicit drugs. Hospitalization is often needed when the person is exhibiting full manic syndromes, since the patient's well-being is at risk because of impaired judgment.

The more you understand about bipolar disorder, the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help you live a healthier and more fulfilling life. People who suffer from a bipolar disorder can get help from a health professional such as a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker. For more information about bipolar disorder and other mental health related problems, please click on the linked websites listed below.

Additional Information

 Psychnet: bipolar disorder
 Bipolar Disorders Information Center
 NIH: medlineplus on bipolar disorder regarding bipolar disorder
 Children and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation

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Bipolar DisorderBipolar Disorder