Manic depressive disorder, more properly called bipolar disorder, is one of several conditions referred to as depressive disorders. These affect the functioning of the brain, and can cause emotional and mental distress. They're extremely common, and more than seventeen million adults in the United States - or about one in seven people - has one of these disorders. Fortunately, manic depressive illness can be treated effectively, with and without drugs. While many people use drugs to help them cope with their manic periods and their depression, there are many side effects to these drugs, and other people choose to manage their symptoms through other means.
There are multiple different types of bipolar disorder - bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymia and a type of bipolar disorder that doesn't fall into those categories. This kind of categorization helps mental health professionals see which way the symptoms are manifesting in a particular person and help them get the treatment that's right for them. This kind of disorder affects just about everyone, men and women alike, and usually turns up in adolescents, though children can also suffer from it. The first diagnosis is usually in people in their early twenties, however.
The reason that manic depressive kids and teenagers aren't always successfully diagnosed is that they respond to the disorder differently. They may have extremely rapid mood changes, anxiety, and irritability, but they don't always have the other symptoms. Thinking, feeling, and behavior are all affected, making it hard for sufferers to understand their condition. Other people may believe that sufferers are behaving the way they do on purpose and can stop it easily. However, this is a legitimate illness, not a character flaw or a sign of immaturity or weakness. Just like any other disorder, it needs to be treated carefully.
Symptoms of manic depressive illness include episodes of depression and mania, often called highs and lows. These are intense, and can be severe mood swings. People with mania may speak and think very quickly, feel energetic, need less sleep, be extremely happy or overly optimistic, and have greater levels of physical activity. They can also have poor judgment, be irritable or aggressive, suffer from impatience or concentration programs, be overly self important and engage in reckless behavior.
In a phase of depression, people often lose interest in their usual activities, be irritable or sad, feel tired, guilty, worthless or unable to be happy, sleep too much or be insomniac, have concentration programs, lose their appetite or overeat, and suffer from high levels of anxiety and regular thoughts of death. Generally in adults, these episodes last weeks to months, and are shorter in children and teenagers. Oscillations throughout the day are not uncommon. Some episodes are also seasonal. Normal or near normal functioning between episodes occurs for some people, but not for others.
Treatments for manic depressive symptoms that are not medication based include reduction in stress, a good diet, and a good sleep schedule. Regular exercise and a support network can also really help, as can counseling and behavioral changes. It is possible to live happily with bipolar disorder, but it's not easy, and anyone suffering from this problem should get help as quickly as possible.