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Bipolar Disorder


What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a type of mental illness. It's in the category of mood disorders. The most commonly known mood disorder is known as Major depression.


Major Depression

Description: When a person's feelings of sadness persist beyond a few weeks, he or she may have depression. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, three to four million men are affected by depression; it affects twice as many women. Researchers do not know the exact mechanisms that trigger depression. Two neurotransmitters-natural substances that allow brain cells to communicate with one another-are implicated in depression: serotonin and noradrenalin.

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Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) is a mood disorder, which means that the symptoms are disturbances or abnormalities of mood. Major depression is a more common illness, the symptoms of which are mainly those of 'low' mood. Bipolar disorder involves episodes of both serious mania (“high”) anddepression (“low”). The person's mood swings from excessively 'high' and irritable, to sad and hopeless, and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between.Different from normal mood states of happiness and sadness, symptoms of manic-depressive illness can be severe and life threatening. However, because many artists, musicians and writers have suffered from bipolar illness, the effect of the illness has sometimes been trivialised, and regarded in some way as beneficial for artistic creativity. In fact, for those afflicted with the illness, it is extremely distressing and disruptive.


Description Extreme mood swings punctuated by periods of generally even-keeled behaviour characterize this disorder. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families. This disorder typically begins in the mid-twenties and continues throughout life. Without treatment, people who have bipolar disorder often go through devastating life events such as marital break-ups, job loss, substance abuse, and suicide.Formal Diagnosis: Bipolar Although scientific evidence indicates bipolar disorder is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, no lab test exists to diagnose the disorder. In fact, this mental illness often goes unrecognised by the person who has it, relatives, friends, or even physicians. The first step of diagnosis is to receive a complete medical evaluation to rule out any other mental or physical disorders. Anyone who has this mental illness should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder.


Mania-expansive or irritable mood

  • inflated self-esteem

  • decreased need for sleep

  • increased energy

  • racing thoughts

  • feelings of invulnerability

  • poor judgment

  • heightened sex drive

  • denial that anything is wrong


  • hopelessness

  • guilt

  • worthlessness

  • melancholy

  • fatigue

  • loss of appetite for food or sex

  • sleep disturbances

  • thoughts of death or suicide suicide attempts.

Mania and depression may vary in both duration and degree of intensity.


Bipolar disorder is the third most common mood disorder after major depression and dysthymic disorder. It affects about 1% of adults during their lifetime. Symptoms typically begin during adolescence or early adulthood, and continue to recur throughout life. Men and women are equally likely to develop this disabling illness. The consequences of the illness can be devastating, and may include marital break-ups, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse. Bipolar illness is often complicated by co-occurring alcohol or substance abuse. Without effective treatment, bipolar illness leads to suicide in nearly 20% of cases.With an untreated suicide rate of 20 to 25 percent, manic-depressive illness (also called bipolar disorder) ranks among the most fatal diseases in medicine.Why is it such a killer? For one thing, it's a long way down for a person falling from the HEIGHTs of mania to the depths of depression.


Effective treatments are available that greatly reduce the suffering caused by bipolar disorder, and can usually prevent its devastating complications. However, bipolar disorder is often not recognised by the patient, relatives, friends, or even physicians. People with bipolar disorder may suffer needlessly without proper treatment, for years or even decades. Also, many patients do not respond to at least one drug, and many show no response to several. This means that combination treatment is often the rule because a combination of different drugs with different methods of action can be more effective without increasing the risk of side effects. Lithium is still the most used drug overall in mania, but mood stabilising anticonvulsants are also widely used.Eighty to ninety percent of people who have bipolar disorder can be treated effectively with medication and psychotherapy. Self-help groups can offer emotional support and assistance in recognizing signs of relapse to avert a full-blown episode of bipolar disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications to treat bipolar disorder are three mood stabilizers: lithium carbonate, carbamazepine, and valproate. New medication has recently been introduced that has been very successful in stabilizing these mood fluxuations.

The influence of weather

Many people feel sluggish and down during the grey, cold months of winter but when spring begins, the whole world seems to burst with energy and life and moods seem to magically improve. However, for the 2 million American adults living with bipolar disorder, the change of seasons can mean a change in behaviour; the highs are much higher and the lows, much lower. New evidence has shown that the changing of the seasons may drive some of these extremes.

In a study published in April 2004 in the Journal of Affective Disorders, a team of scientists surveyed patients with various mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder. At the end of the year-long survey, it was found that individuals with bipolar disorder were much more likely to have mood fluctuations with the seasons than those from the depressed or normal populations. 

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