- Bipolar disorder is also known as “Manic-Depressive Disorder.”
- There is no single cause of Bipolar Disorder, but because it is known to run in families, researchers are studying genes for clues to its origin.
- Alcohol and drug abuse are very common among people afflicted with the illness.
- More than 2 million American adults, or about 1% of the population age 18 and over in any given year, have Bipolar Disorder.
- Some people exhibit symptoms of the disorder during childhood, while others might not show any signs until much later in life.
- Like other chronic illnesses, Bipolar Disorder is a long-term illness and must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life.
- With effective treatment, victims of the illness can lead healthy and productive lives. However, if the disorder goes untreated, it will worsen with time.
Symptoms & Diagnosis
Bipolar Disorder is characterized by dramatic mood swings. Victims often go from extremely “high” (excited and elated) to extremely “low”(irritable and depressed) moods and then back again. They might often experience normal moods and behavior between episodes. The “high” periods are referred to as “mania” or “manic” episodes. During this stage, a sufferer of the disorder might feel euphoric, giddy, energetic, unfocused, or even aggressive. Signs of a manic episode include being easily distracted, insomnia, racing thoughts, quickened speech, and poor judgment. The “low” periods are referred to as “depressive” episodes. During this stage, a sufferer might feel anxious, empty, hopeless, lethargic, irritable, and in extreme cases, suicidal. Signs of a depressive episode include (but are not limited to) loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, pessimism, sleeping too much, difficulty concentrating, and morbid thoughts.
When making a diagnosis it is important to consider the frequency of these episodes. A person afflicted with Bipolar Disorder usually experiences several of these mood shifts several times a day for many weeks.
As there might be several unrelated contributors to their behavior (biological, environmental, drug and alcohol abuse) it should be up to a trained physician knowledgeable in the field of psychiatric disorders to make the final diagnosis.
Most individuals inflicted with Bipolar Disorder can achieve stabilization of their mood swings through proper treatment. The best strategy combines medication and psychosocial treatment. Because the disorder is recurrent, long-term treatment is strongly recommended. Mood-stabilizing drugs are the most frequently prescribed for treating the illness. Research studies continue to evaluate the effects of newer medications as well. Therapy is also highly recommended as well as group and family counseling. It should ultimately be up to a trained physician or psychiatrist to suggest the best possible treatment.