What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a relatively recent entry into the field of mental health, but in fact, it is has been around for a while. Bipolar disorder used to be known as manic depression so if you come across information about manic depressive disorder you can simply take that information and apply it to bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is identified and differentiated from other forms of depression by virtue of the fact that periods of depression are placed in opposition to periods of euphoria that once supplied it with the term manic depression.

The elevated mood of a person with bipolar disease actually does rise to the point of euphoria where self-esteem is boosted along with optimism and energy.

Bipolar disorder cannot accurately be termed rare since it affects about 1% of the entire population, but it is much less common than what is termed unipolar disorder. Unlike depression which affects mostly women, bipolar disorder affects both sexes equally. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are characterized by depressive episodes and manic episodes.

  • During the manic stage, the person is affable and seems almost to be high on drugs, including the possibility of acting hyperactive.
  • The depressive stage is marked by a sense of gloomy hopelessness, obsessive worry, and fatigue.

If two people were to observe the same person only during the opposing stages, each would be likely to suggest that they could not possibly be describing the same person.

Many people might think that bipolar disorder is preferable to typical depression because of the manic episodes. Many bipolar patients do report extraordinary leaps in creativity during the manic phase. Obviously, the increase in energy during the manic phase is very welcome to a person who may not even be able to work up the energy to get out of the house during the depressive phase. The manic episodes do have a downside.

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During the manic phase, a bipolar patient can become quite irritable and even begin to express signs of anxiety. In some cases, though certainly not all, the mild manic episodes can escalate to the point that the patient may begin to seem out of control. Judgment may become impaired and result in the patient attempting to do things during the manic phase that they should not do; everything from drag racing to confronting people over real or imagined slights; from gambling to promiscuity.

Treatment for bipolar disease involves the use of medication and therapy. Antidepressant drugs are typically prescribed, although anti-psychotic and even calcium channel blockers may also be used. Some patients are even prescribed Ritalin and other medications used to treat attention-deficit disorder in conjunction with antidepressants like Serzone. A number of famous people have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, including creative types like Jim Carrey and Robert Downey, Jr., Tim Burton and Sting.

In addition, some psychologists have retroactively determined from the available evidence that many artistic geniuses most likely were bipolar, including Vincent Van Gogh and Beethoven.


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