What is Bipolar Disorder?
, also known as manic-depressive illness or manic depressive disorder or manic depression, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Bipolar disorder affects more than 3 million cases per year in the US.
Affected individuals experience episodes of depression
and episodes of mania
. Bipolar disorder lasts for a lifetime, with treatments aiming at managing the symptoms by psychotherapy and medication. Symptoms can last over a period of few weeks, months, or even years.
“Manic” describes an increasingly restless, energetic, talkative, reckless, powerful, euphoric period. Lavish spending sprees or impulsive risky sex can occur. Then, at some point, this high-flying mood can spiral into something darker — irritation, confusion, anger, feeling trapped.
” describes the opposite mood — sadness, crying, sense of worthlessness, loss of energy, loss of pleasure, sleep
But because the pattern of highs and lows varies for each person, bipolar disorder is a complex disorder to diagnose. For some people, mania or depression can last for weeks or months (or rarely, even a year or more). For other people, bipolar disorder takes the form of frequent and more brief mood episodes.
Patients may feel normal, without any symptoms, in between episodes of mania and depression.
Manic periods, experts say, can sometimes be very productive. People going through a manic period can think things are going great. The danger comes, though, when the mania grows worse. Changes can be dramatic and marked by reckless behavior, sexual promiscuity, other personal or work-related risks, and financial irresponsibility.
The depressed phases can be equally dangerous. A person may have frequent thoughts of suicide
Bipolar disorder is equally difficult for the families of those affected. The condition is one of the most difficult mental illness
es for families to accept, according to some experts. When a person is sometimes very productive and then becomes unreasonable or irrational, it may seem more like bad behavior than a sickness.
If this rings true — either for you or a loved one — the first step in tackling the problem is to see a psychiatrist. Whether it’s bipolar disorder or another mood-related problem, effective treatments are available. What’s most important is that you recognize the problem and start looking for help.
[Excerpts taken from WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 23, 2018]