What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder, which is also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental illness involving episodes of serious mania and depression. The person’s mood usually swings from overly high and irritable to sad and hopeless and then back again, with periods of normal mood in between. Bipolar disorder typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and continues throughout life. At least 2 million American suffer from manic-depressive illness. Bipolar disorder tends to run in families and is believed to be inherited in many cases.
Key Features of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder involves cycles of mania and depression. Signs and symptoms of mania include discrete periods of
- Increased energy, activity, restlessness, racing thoughts and rapid talking
- Excessive high or euphoric feeling
- Extreme irritability and distractibility
- Decreased need for sleep
- Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers
- Uncharacteristically poor judgment
- A sustained period of behavior that is different from usual
- Increased sexual drive
- Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications
- Provocative, intrusive or aggressive behavior
- Denial that anything is wrong
Signs and symptoms of depression include discrete periods of
- Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities including sex
- Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being slowed down
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Restlessness or irritability
- Sleep disturbance
- Loss of appetite and weight or weight gain
- Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical disease
- Thoughts of death or suicide: suicide attempts
How is Bipolar Disorder treated?
The most effective treatment for bipolar disorder is one of a variety of mood-stabilizing medications. The most well-known of these is lithium, which was the first medication, introduced for bipolar disorder. More recently, two other medications have been introduced: Tegretol and Depakote. Although all medications for bipolar disorder are effective, side effects by adjusting the dosage and formulation of medication.
In addition to medications, psychotherapy is helpful, especially during the depressed phase of bipolar disorder. Combination treatment (medications in combination with therapy) leads to the best results for most patients.