Bipolar disorder used to be known simply as manic depression. It is a psychological mood disorder that greatly impairs a person's ability to regulate their mood. As such, these people are prone to episodes of major depression and mania.
Understanding Major Depression
There are a lot of different types of depression. Many people experience some type of depression whenever they are faced with significant disappointment or grief. This is known as minor depression. Bipolar patients suffer from what is known as major depression. Psychologists refer this to as bipolar depression. Some of the signs of major depression include:
- Depressed mood
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all or most activities
- Persistent change in weight or appetite
- Insomnia or hyposomnia
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty thinking
- Inability to concentrate
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
These occur over a prolonged period of time on a daily, or near daily, basis.
The DSM, which is the main diagnostic manual that mental health professionals use, says that in order to be diagnosed as bipolar you must have at least one manic episode that is not caused by drug or alcohol abuse, medication or a medical disorder. It is also important to understand that mania is different from being in a really good mood. Mania is an abnormally elevated mood that includes the following symptoms:
- Racing thoughts
- Fast or pressured speech
- Inflated self-esteem
- Decreased need for sleep
- Easily distracted
- An increase in goal-directed behavior
- Psychomotor agitation
- Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for negative consequences
While everyone may experience some of these symptoms from time to time, a person with bipolar disorder will have several of these symptoms all at the same time. Of course, some people will have substantial separate episodes of mania and depression throughout their lives. Some people are more prone to bouts of depression while others are more prone to bouts of manic episodes. These episodes oftentimes seem like diametric opposites to people who don't have this disorder, but it is important to note that bipolar patients can even experience both mania and depression at the same time. This is what is known as a mixed episode.
The goal should be to educate ourselves about bipolar disorder, so we can help others in the future that suffer from this disease.