Bipolar disorder also known as manic-depressive illness and manic depression, is an illness in which a person experiences extreme mood swings, both manic and depressive moods as well as every mood in between these two.
Manic moods or mania is a state of excitement characterized by racing thoughts, increased energy, decreased need for sleep, extreme irritability, aggressive behavior, inability to keep focused, increased sexual drive, uncontrollable impulses, quick changes of emotions and etc.
Depression is an emotional state of persistent dejection, ranging from relatively mild discouragement and gloominess to feelings of extreme despair.
Manic and depressive moods may occur in two different ways. They can occur in cycles which are characterized by alternations of manic and depressive moods. For example a cycle of mania is followed by a cycle of depression.
Usually these mood swings occur in a regular pattern over a period of anything from days to months. That pattern is unique for each person but once discovered, the next episode can be predicted.
People suffering from a mixed state experience symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously, at the same time. For example even though they are euphoric and excited they think about suicide or have racing thoughts during a depressive episode.
Manic-depressive illness is a serious disorder and it affects not just the patient but her/his whole surroundings. Marriages, friendships, families and other kinds of relationships have suffered and are suffering because of this disorder.
Unfortunately, manic depressive illness is not always easy to recognize and in many cases goes undetected. However, once detected it can be controlled very well and a person can have a normal productive life. What is important to know is that bipolar disorder is recurrent which means it requires a long-term treatment.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are four categories of bipolar illness: Bipolar I which requires a manic episode for diagnosis and is classic definition of bipolar disorder. Bipolar II, is characterized by recurrent major depressive episodes and hypomania which is less severe from mania;
Cyclothymia is chronic and consisting of short periods of mild depression and short periods of hypomania; and manic-depressive illness not otherwise specified, which is a residual category of illnesses that exist in the bipolar realm but do not meet criteria for any other manic-depressive illness stated above.
Causes of Bipolar Disorder
There is no single cause for manic-depressive illness. Genes definitely do play a role however other factors like environment are involved as well.
Studies of identical twins, with the same genome (same genes), showed that even though when one twin suffers from a bipolar disorder the other one doesn’t always develop the illness.
This is showing us that manic-depressive illness is not entirely caused by genes. Furthermore, gene research has shown that bipolar disorder is not caused by one gene but that more genes collaborate and contribute to the vulnerability to this disorder.
Traumatic childhood, exposure to very stressful events, inability to cope with problems and other factors alike play a significant role in developing it.
Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder
Manic Depression is diagnosed in two steps. First, a professional must rule out other mental health conditions as well as possible physical problems that may produce similar symptoms to bipolar disorder, for example schizophrenia or thyroid disorders.
Second step is to carefully study patient’s symptoms as well as the way they appear, their length, severity and frequency. It is essential to understand that there is no other, more objective, way for diagnosing bipolar disorder. This is why you should be careful and look for a best help you can find.
Treatment of Bipolar Disorder
This is a long-term illness and currently has no cure, but it can be controlled and managed. Therefore the emphasis of treatment is first to relieve the patient from symptoms and than to prevent symptoms from reoccurring. This goal is achieved through long-term therapy. Treatment methods include pharmacological and psychological techniques.
A variety of medications are use to treat this disorder. Usually a combination of medications is required. For example for manic episodes lithium is widely used. Antidepressant medication is used to treat depression associated with bipolar disorder.
Anti-seizure medications are also widely used as mood regulators. The success of medication is quite high. However, medications are only one part of the long-term solution. Psychological treatment is essential for people that suffer from manic-depressive illness. It helps them better understand what is happening to them, what to expect, and how to cope with current situation caused by their illness. Also, it is very important for family members to learn how to deal with their beloved one and help her/him get better.
The outcome or prognosis depends on a proper diagnosis and good treatment. Even thought this is a serious medical disease if treated well a person can live a long and fulfilling life.