Bipolar Disorder

In bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness), episodes of depression alternate with episodes of mania or a less severe form of mania called hypomania.

Mania is characterised by excessive physical activity and feelings of elation that are greatly out of proportion to the situation.

Heredity probably plays a part in bipolar disorder.

Episodes of depression and mania may occur separately or together.

Individuals have one or more periods of excessive sadness and loss of interest in life and one or more periods of elation, extreme energy, and often irritability, with periods of relatively normal mood in between.

Medical professionals base the diagnosis on the pattern of symptoms.

Drugs that stabilise mood, such as lithium and certain anticonvulsants (drugs usually used to treat seizures), and sometimes psychotherapy can help.

Bipolar disorder is so named because it includes the two extremes, or poles, of mood disorders – depression and mania.

It affects about 4% of the US population to some degree. Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. Bipolar disorder usually begins in a person’s teens, 20’s, or 30’s. Bipolar disorder in children is rare.

Most bipolar disorders can be classified as

  • Bipolar I disorder:
    • Individuals have had at least one full-fledged manic episode (one that prevents them from functioning normally or that includes delusions) and usually depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar II disorder:
    • Individuals have had major depressive episodes, at least one less severe manic (hypomanic) episode, but no full-fledged manic episodes.

However, some individuals have episodes that resemble a bipolar disorder but are milder and do not meet the specific criteria for bipolar I or II disorder.

Such episodes may be classified as an unspecified bipolar disorder or cyclothymic disorder.

Did You Know?

  • Certain physical disorders and drugs can cause symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • Individuals experiencing mania often think they are in their best form.

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