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Home > Bipolar Disorder> Help for Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder, Once Known as Manic-Depressive Disorder

"Manic-depression distorts moods and thoughts, incites dreadful behaviors, destroys the basis of rational thought, and too often erodes the desire and will to live. It is an illness that is biological in its origins, yet one that feels psychological in the experience of it; an illness that is unique in conferring advantage and pleasure, yet one that brings in its wake almost unendurable suffering and, not infrequently, suicide."
"I am fortunate that I have not died from my illness, fortunate in having received the best medical care available, and fortunate in having the friends, colleagues, and family that I do."
Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D., An Unquiet Mind, 1995, p. 6.
Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. Bipolar disorder should be regarded as a spectrum of emotions ranging from extreme depression to extreme happiness or mania. The individual can range from being severely depressed, to moderately depressed, to feeling what is usually termed "the blues" when it is short-lived but is termed "dysthymia" when it is chronic. Then comes normal or balanced mood, above which comes hypomania (mild to moderate mania), and then severe mania. For some people symptoms of mania and depression can even occur simultaneously, referred to as a mixed bipolar state. This often includes agitation, trouble sleeping, significant change and appetite, psychosis and suicidal thinking. A person may be very sad and hopeless but feel energized at the same time. The combination of these symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But there is good news: bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

 
Quick Facts   People with Bipolar Disorder
Symptoms   Treatment  
Research   Causes Bipolar Disorder  
Help for Bipolar Disorder      
 
How Can Individuals and Families Get Help for Bipolar Disorder?
Anyone with bipolar disorder should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses, can assist in providing the person and family with additional approaches to treatment.

Help can be found at:

University-or medical school-affiliated programs
Hospital departments of psychiatry
Private psychiatric offices and clinics
Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
Offices of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians
Public community mental health centers

People with bipolar disorder may need help to get help. Often people with bipolar disorder do not realize how impaired they are, or they blame their problems on some cause other than mental illness. A person with bipolar disorder may need strong encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment. Family physicians can play an important role in providing referral to a mental health professional. Sometimes a family member or friend may need to take the person with bipolar disorder for proper mental health evaluation and treatment. A person who is in the midst of a severe episode may need to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much-needed treatment. There may be times when the person must be hospitalized against his or her wishes.

Ongoing encouragement and support are needed after a person obtains treatment, because it may take a while to find the best treatment plan for each individual. In some cases, individuals with bipolar disorder may agree, when the disorder is under good control, to a preferred course of action in the event of a future manic or depressive relapse. Like other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder is also hard on spouses, family members, friends, and employers.

Family members of someone with bipolar disorder often have to cope with the person's serious behavioral problems, such as wild spending sprees during mania or extreme withdrawal from others during depression, and the lasting consequences of these behaviors. Many people with bipolar disorder benefit from joining support groups such as those sponsored by the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association(NDMDA), the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill(NAMI), and the National Mental Health Association(NMHA). Families and friends can also benefit from support groups offered by these organizations.
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