Manic-depressive disorder, also known as bipolar disorder, is a condition that describes a mood-based mental illness. It is believed to be caused by genetics as well as environmental factors. Individuals suffering from manic-depressive disorder will generally exhibit mood swings, going from an extreme manic state to a depressed state. This change can occur rapidly, known as rapid cycling, or it can be broken up by periods of normal mood. It is also possible for an individual to experience mood swings which are much milder. This is known as hypomania. While mania and depression can begin in childhood, the number of cases is very small. Most patients suffering from manic-depression are early adults to middle-aged. There are some indications that the likelihood of suffering from manic-depression decreases with age.
When going through a state of depression, an individual will exhibit feelings of sadness, anxiety and guilt. They may also exhibit physical signs like disturbances in sleeping and eating patterns, as well as fatigue and a loss of interest in activities that they enjoy. When someone enters a manic state, their mood elevates and they can become angry, irate, and overly expressive. The increased level of energy that comes with being in a manic state decreases an individual's feeling that they need sleep. The attention span of someone in a manic state is low and they get easily distracted. It also leads to a feeling of being unstoppable or being driven with extreme purpose. This, in turn, can lead to dangerous behavior like substance abuse or physical abuse.
Although there are no medical tests to diagnose bipolar disorder, tests can be done to rule out other medical illnesses. A diagnoses of manic-depressive disorder usually first occurs with family and friends. When the symptoms are noted, a doctor or nurse can examine a patient and observe them to determine if they exhibit enough symptoms. It can take years to diagnose bipolar disorder because it is similar to several other mental health conditions, and because the symptoms can appear sporadically.
Treating manic-depression revolves around two main options, psychotherapy, and pharmaceuticals. These treatments can also be used in conjunction with each other. The goal of psychotherapy is to alleviate the deep-rooted causes of manic-depression. This treatment can also help a patient to recognize signs of a bout of manic-depression, and act accordingly. The most popular pharmaceutical treatment is a mood stabilizer like lithium. However, if taken improperly, medication can lead to relapses of depression or mania, depending on which symptom they aim to treat.