Bipolar disorders 1 and 2 are mood influencing mental disorders affecting almost 5 million Americans. Those who suffer from bipolar mood disorder experience extreme emotional fluctuations, often cycling rapidly back and forth between mania and depression, a condition that may last throughout their lives. However, many people with this disorder have been able to overcome the limitations of this disease to make remarkable achievements in different fields of life.
People with bipolar disorder undergo extreme mood swings. The terms happiness and sadness are insufficient to describe the mental highs and lows suffered in this disorder. In the depressive phase, individuals may experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and the darkest depression. Often, they will sleep for excessive periods of time, and otherwise evidence low energy, or even appear catatonic. In the manic phase the mood may be highly elevated, and individuals in this state often have the sensation that they can take on the world, beginning ambitious projects or making wild claims. They may sleep very little in their manic phase, while continuing to feel energized and powerful. The term “bipolar disorder” refers to these two extremes, or poles.
Sometimes referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder is caused by emotional, biological, neurological, and environmental factors. Men and women are equally affected. This disease is often diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood but it can develop later in life. Early onset bipolar disorder may also be seen in children and teens, and may be more severe than late onset bipolar disorder. Growing up with bipolar disorder presents a wide range of social and developmental problems for children.
Medical practitioners and researcher divide this disease into 2 categories: bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. Bipolar 1 is characterized by manic episodes, or constantly elevated moods, which last at least one week. Some people may experience psychotic symptoms in this phase, including delusions, hallucinations, and extreme feelings of power, euphoria, and well being. Bipolar 1 patients may or may not experience a true depressive phase. Bipolar 2 includes both hypomanic episodes, which are less debilitating that true mania, along with depressive phases, typically experiencing both extremes with the same week, sometimes cycling back and forth quite rapidly. Bipolar affective disorder refers to mixed episodes in which happiness and sorrow may be experienced at the same time.
A bipolar diagnosis requires a medical examination, at which time a doctor will also take the patient’s history, along with that of his or her family, if possible. Clinical screening is also helpful in evaluating any associated problem.
Many people find that their bipolar disorder can be treated with a variety of medications, which may manage the extreme moods and, in some cases, psychosis. Common drugs used in the treatment of bipolar disorder include lithium, carbonate, divalproex sodium, and carbamazepine. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be helpful for some patients.