What is bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. These changes may be subtle or dramatic and typically vary greatly over the course of a person’s life as well as among individuals. Over 10 million people in America have bipolar disorder, and the illness affects men and women equally. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally life-long condition with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months that often begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and occasionally even in children. Most people generally require some sort of lifelong treatment. While medication is one key element in successful treatment of bipolar disorder, psychotherapy, support, and education about the illness are also essential components of the treatment process.
What are the symptoms of mania?
Mania is the word that describes the activated phase of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of mania may include:
- either an elated, happy mood or an irritable, angry, unpleasant mood This can happen to anyone, with or without mental illness.
- increased physical and mental activity and energy. My career choice requires a great deal of concentration and focus which is why I can keep my job unlike others (bipolar) who have difficulty keeping their jobs.
- racing thoughts and flight of ideas. This happens everyday however, it is worse in times of crisis or a 'mixed' state. See below.
- increased talking, more rapid speech than normal. Truthfully I am usually quite shy and I am terrified of talking out of my ass and sticking my foot in my mouth. Besides, I learn more by observation.
- ambitious, often grandiose plans. Ambitious? That is me in a nutshell. I suffered many grandiose plans before my diagnosis, and after therapy have learned many techniques to control them.
- risk taking I have always been a risk taker, even as a child. I enjoy playing the stock market.
- impulsive activity such as spending sprees, sexual indiscretion, and alcohol abuse. Spending sprees? This is why I keep my credit cards locked up in a saftey deposit box. Sexual indiscretions? Yes. I am not ashamed nor do I feel guilty bout any of them. As far as alcohol or drug abuse I have no experience with either of them.
- decreased sleep without experiencing fatigue. My body only requires four to five hours of sleep and no I do not have dark circles under my eyes.=)
What are the symptoms of depression?
Depression is the other phase of bipolar disorder. The symptoms of depression may include: Just a reminder I am Bipolar II, my symptoms for depression are less severe and don't last as long as my periods of mania do.
- loss of energy
- prolonged sadness
- decreased activity and energy
- restlessness and irritability
- inability to concentrate or make decisions
- increased feelings of worry and anxiety
- less interest or participation in, and less enjoyment of activities normally enjoyed
- feelings of guilt and hopelessness
- thoughts of suicide
- change in appetite (either eating more or eating less)
- change in sleep patterns (either sleeping more or sleeping less)
What is a "mixed" state?
A mixed state is when symptoms of mania and depression occur at the same time. During a mixed state depressed mood accompanies manic activation.
What is rapid cycling?
Sometimes individuals may experience an increased frequency of episodes. When four or more episodes of illness occur within a 12-month period, the individual is said to have bipolar disorder with rapid cycling. Rapid cycling is more common in women.
What are the causes of bipolar disorder?
While the exact cause of bipolar disorder is not known, most scientists believe that bipolar disorder is likely caused by multiple factors that interact with each other to produce a chemical imbalance affecting certain parts of the brain. Bipolar disorder often runs in families, and studies suggest a genetic component to the illness. A stressful environment or negative life events may interact with an underlying genetic or biological vulnerability to produce the disorder. There are other possible "triggers" of bipolar episodes: the treatment of depression with an antidepressant medication may trigger a switch into mania, sleep deprivation may trigger mania, or hypothyroidism may produce depression or mood instability. It is important to note that bipolar episodes can and often do occur without any obvious trigger.
How is bipolar disorder treated?
While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, it is a treatable and manageable illness. After an accurate diagnosis, most people can achieve an optimal level of wellness. Medication is an essential element of successful treatment for people with bipolar disorder. In addition, psychosocial therapies including cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and psychoeducation are important to help people understand the illness and to internalize skills to cope with the stresses that can trigger episodes. Changes in medications or doses may be necessary, as well as changes in treatment plans during different stages of the illness.
Want to know more? Go here, here or here.
Labels: depression, Mental Illness Awareness Week
N Posted by Rain at 10/05/2006 10:02:00 AM
jules posted at 3:26 PM
I'm learning all about this one first hand. I can't say that I like it...but meds are helping.
Brian posted at 5:37 PM
Thank you for the information. More people need to have a greater awareness of mental illness.
Rain posted at 11:58 AM
Hi jules! I was diagnosed ten years ago with Bipolar II and I still struggle with the fact that I have to take my pills everyday.
In ten years I have went off my meds. twice, each time costing me thousands of dollars and not to mention the embarrassment (my father's)over my 'risky sexual behavior' because I had to get a second job to pay my debits. I got a job in L.A as a exotic dancer in a high end mens club. My father thought my morals and values flew right out of the window! How my father found out about my 'plan' to get out of debit is another post. =)
I just want you to know jules that I am here for you anytime, if you need someone to listen. Just email me with your phone number. ~Rain
Brian, I think so too. There are many misconceptions and sterotypes about mental illness's. It is my hope that perhaps someone will see these posts, recognise the warning signs and be able to get help for themselves, family members and friends.~Rain
marie posted at 9:22 PM
Great post! I was diagnosed with Bi-Polar about a year ago. It is time we erase the stigma from mental illness and educate the masses. People live in fear of what they don't understand.
Barb posted at 10:08 AM
Wow. I had no idea the 5th was bipolar awareness day. Well, maybe because to me, every day is bipolar awareness day. Thanks for posting about it!
posted at 12:42 AM
Trust me......a mixed state is the worst thing I've ever experienced. Depression, anxiety and hypomania w/ a little illogical thought process thrown in. I have been completely med compliant, yet financial, personal and work stressors must have flipped me over. Thanks to anyone who shares about the issues they deal with due to Bipolar Illness. I am a well educated professional working in the field, but none of us are safe when chemical instability comes knocking. Thanks again.