Bipolar depression disorder generally occurs before the age of 30 years and may first develop during adolescence, but most commonly presents its symptoms in the late teens and early 20s. It is a type of mood disorder that exhibits marked changes in mood between extreme elation or happiness and severe depression. Bipolar disorder used to be referred to as manic depression.
Like other mental illnesses, bipolar disorder cannot yet be identified physiologically--for example, through a blood test or a brain scan. Therefore, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is made on the basis of symptoms, course of illness, and, when available, family history. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).
A person with bipolar depression disorder experiences cycling moods that usually swing from being overly elated or irritable (mania) to sad and hopeless (depression) and then back again, with periods of normal moods in between. There are statistics that say that one in five people will suffer from depression at least once during their life.
Symptoms of depression include: loss of interest in usual activities, prolonged sad or irritable mood, loss of energy or fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, sleeping too much or inability to sleep, drop in grades and inability to concentrate, inability to experience pleasure, appetite loss or overeating, anger, worry, and anxiety, thoughts of death or suicide.
Symptoms of manic states are varied and include restlessness, increased energy, euphoric mood, racing thoughts, poor judgment, intrusive or provocative behavior, difficulty concentrating, and a decreased need for sleep.
The exact causes of bipolar disorder aren't known, but stressful life events, un-resolvable problems, or emotional damage in childhood, possibly combined with genetic factors may play a role. Scientists are also studying about the possible causes of bipolar disorder through several kinds of studies. As the causes are more clearly identified and defined through research, scientists will gain a better understanding of the underlying causes of the illness, and eventually may be able to predict which types of treatment will work most effectively. As it stands now it is thought that bipolar depression disorder is caused by electrical and chemical processes in the brain not functioning correctly.
Unfortunately, for most individuals, lifelong treatment may be required to prevent recurrent manic and depressive episodes. They should try to identify the features of the illness that are distinct to that individual, including the warning signs of recurrent manic or depressive episodes, so that someone in treatment can get immediate help to ward off those symptoms. Failure to seek help can lead to suicide so the most important factor in any treatment is the sufferer's acceptance of some form of counseling and/ or medication.
Bipolar depression disorder is a serious mental illness that can be successfully treated with proper psychological counseling and medication. It is important that anyone exhibiting the signs or symptoms of this disease seek help so they can properly manage this condition.