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Home > Bipolar Disorder > World of People
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.

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The World of Someone with Bipolar Disorder
The difficulty of having a disorder like bipolar, is for one, receiving the proper diagnosis early on. Bipolar is not a physiologically identifiable disease, for instance through a blood test or CAT scan cannot identify it. So, diagnosis of the said disorder is done through symptoms and being that the spectrum of symptoms is so broad this makes diagnosis a difficult task. The diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).
Mania can include any of the following symptoms: increased energy, activity, and restlessness, excessively "high," overly good, and euphoric moods. The individual may become extremely irritable, have racing thoughts and begin talking very fast. The individual may not being able to concentrate, little sleep needed, unrealistic beliefs about one's abilities and powers, poor judgment, going on spending sprees, an increased sexual drive, aggressive behavior, denial that anything is wrong. Possible drug abuse, in particularly cocaine, alcohol and/or sleeping medications may be utilized.

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present. (More symptoms are listed in the section about depression)

A mild to moderate level of mania is referred to as hypomania. Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it and may even be associated with good functioning and enhanced productivity. Thus even when family and friends learn to recognize the mood swings as possible bipolar disorder, the person may deny that anything is wrong. Without proper treatment, however, hypomania can become severe mania in some people or can switch into depression.

Many individuals with bipolar disorder become suicidal. Risk for suicide usually appears early on in the illness, which is one of the reasons why recognizing bipolar disorder early on is important- to avoid all the danger possible. Anyone who is thinking about committing suicide should receive attention preferably from a mental health professional or a physician. If someone begins talking about suicide they should be monitored and taken seriously.

Signs or symptoms of suicide include: talking about wanting to die, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, feeling like a burden to family or friends, abusing substances such as alcohol or drugs, making what could be considered final preparations such as giving things away or organizing finances, writing a suicide note, or purposefully putting oneself in harm's way.

Anyone feeling suicidal should immediately contact someone like a doctor, or 911. If you know of someone who is suicidal do not leave them alone and make sure they receive help as soon as possible. Furthermore, limit their access to harmful substances or weapons. It is important to for the individual experiencing these feelings or desires as well as their loved ones, that the symptoms of creating these suicidal desires can be treated.

An individual experiencing bipolar disorder will typically have episodes of mania or depression that recur across their lifespan. A good majority of people with bipolar disorder are symptom free, but as many as one-third of people have some residual symptoms. There is a small percentage of people experience chronic unremitting symptoms despite treatment. There are several different forms of this disorder:

Bipolar I disorder is considered to be the classic form of the illness and involves recurrent episodes of mania and depression.

Bipolar II disorder is characterized by never developing severe mania but having less severe hypomania that alternates with depression.

Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is when an individual has four or more episodes of the illness within a 12-month period. People can experience multiple episodes within the same week or eve the same day. This form of the illness tends to develop with progression of the disease and is more common in women.

Both children and adolescents can develop bipolar disorder. It is more likely to affect the children of parents who have the illness. Unlike many adults with bipolar disorder, whose episodes tend to be more clearly defined, children and young adolescents with the illness often experience very fast mood swings between depression and mania many times within a day. Children with mania are more likely to be irritable and prone to destructive tantrums than to be overly happy and elated. Mixed symptoms also are common in youths with bipolar disorder. Older adolescents who develop the illness may have more classic, adult-type episodes and symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder
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