Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression Explained

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression is a mental illness in which an individual alternates between states of deep depression and extreme euphoria. However, Bipolar or manic-depressive illness is much more complex than just alternating between depression and elation. Bipolar disorder affects thoughts, feelings, perceptions, behavior and even affects how a person feels physically (known clinically as Psychosomatic Presentations). Bipolar disorder has been subcategorized as Bipolar I, Bipolar II, Bipolar NOS, and Cylcothymia, depending on the type and severity of the mood episodes experienced.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly known as the DSM-IV because it is in its fourth major edition) indicates that Bipolar Disorder is defined by the occurrence of one or more episodes of abnormally elevated mood (clinically known as mania) or mixed episodes often accompanied by depressive episodes. These episodes are commonly separated by periods of "normal" mood, but in some cases, depression and mania may rapidly alternate (rapid cycling). Extreme manic episodes may lead to psychotic symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations.

Bipolar Symptoms


Mania often begins with a sense of heightened energy, creativity, and social ease; these feelings can quickly progress to an extreme and continuous elevated mood involving an exaggerated sense of self-esteem and/or irritable mood. When in this state, individuals become more physically active, talkative, easily distracted, and show a reduced need for sleep. In most cases, people aren't aware that anything is wrong and may also enjoy the feeling mania brings. Judgment becomes impaired resulting in greater risk-taking behavior including overspending and sexual activity. In sever cases, the person may also hallucinate or become delusional; this is known as a psychotic episode.


Depressive symptoms are intense, pervasive, persistent. Feelings may include:

* despair

* hopelessness

* frustration

* anger

* irritability

* worthlessness

* guilt

* loss of energy

* limited interest in normal activities

* changes in weight

* difficulties with sleep

* slowed thinking

* difficulty in making simple decisions

* and in serious cases, thought of suicide

Bipolar Treatment

There is not one simple answer to treating Bipolar disorder. Effective treatment for bipolar disorder is a combination of many things.

* Education: Understanding bipolar disorder is essential. Individuals must educate themselves of its general signs and symptoms so they can better identify and understand their moods. Learning about treatment and triggers is a critical part of illness self-management. With this knowledge, people with Bipolar disorder and their families are better equipped to prevent future relapses.

* Medication: Bipolar disorder is a recurrent illness, and therefore, people require medication as a form of long term treatment. Most people need a number of medications to manage their symptoms and maintain wellness. Finding the right "cocktail" of medications can take several months, or even several years, before finding a successful combination. It is crucial that this process is closely monitored and discussed with a psychiatrist. There may be a strong urge to discontinue use of medication when feeling better; the majority of the time this behaviour leads to a relapse. The main categories of medication used include the following: mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medication.

* Psychotherapy & Support Groups Psychotherapy and support groups are highly recommended, especially during the first year or two following diagnosis; this, in combination with medication greatly increases your chances of finding a stable healthy life style. Both professional and peer support provide insight in the form of personal stories, effective treatments, and coping strategies. Knowing you are not alone is effective treatment in itself.

Bipolar and Stigma Many people delay seeking help and treatment for bipolar disorder because they fear being labeled as crazy, dangerous, or even contagious; they fear what friends, family, and employers might think. There is still a social stigma attached to having a mental illness, but social attitudes are gradually changing. One of the most challenging aspects of stigma, following diagnosis, is self-stigma. This internal stigma results in believing devaluing attitudes and blaming oneself for the illness. Some strategies to counteract stigma include better understanding what stigma is and how it affects people, as well as sharing experiences and coping strategies within peer support groups.

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