Understanding Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder was once referred to as manic depression. This condition is characterised by extreme swings in mood, from depression to mania, hence its earlier designation. Depression is on the lowest end of the mood scale while mania refers to feeling very high. Highs which do not reach the top end of the extreme mania scale are referred to hypomania. This is a very general characterisation of the moods associated with bipolar disorder; further information on the range and extent of symptoms is beyond the scope of this article but can be easily found.

Duration of Episodes

While most people experience mood swings to some degree, those diagnosed with bipolar disorder do so to an extreme and episodes of either depression or mania may endure for a period of weeks, in some cases longer. The episodes are so severe that they interfere with daily life, although the degree and duration vary widely between individuals. For some people afflicted with the disorder, only a few episodes will occur over their lifetime. Others will be afflicted more frequently throughout their lives.

Depression and Mania

Often, sufferers will experience a depressed mood first, which can lead to a misdiagnosis of clinical depression. The manic phase will occur later; it can sometimes be years before it occurs, however. This is when diagnosis often changes to reflect a more accurate assessment. The depression phase is characterised by feelings of being worthless. When it is very severe, this low mood may lead to considerations of suicide.

Conversely, the manic phase is characterised by a feeling of extreme happiness in which the sufferer experiences creativity and makes quite grand plans. They may overextend their credit, forget to eat or sleep, speak in a very rapid manner, and experience annoyance over small inconveniences. At this point, the mania seems to be a positive symptom. The downside to this mood, however, is that sufferers often exhibit symptoms of psychosis as well, which refers to hearing or seeing things that are not really there.

A Common Disorder

Psychiatrists have yet to determine the exact causes of bipolar disorder. It is generally accepted, however, that the condition is hereditary and strikes every one person in 100, making it a fairly common disorder. It usually develops in either a man or woman between the age of 18 and 24. Bipolar disorder is not discriminatory; it can affect people from any gender, socioeconomic, geographic, or ethnic background.

If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, be sure to maintain the therapy regimen which has been prescribed and make yourself aware of all possible symptoms and their effects.

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