Bipolar Disorder
Last Edited: April 10th, 2012

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Bipolar Disorder
All About Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a psychiatric condition defined by very high levels of energy and mood. The elevated moods are known as mania, and they are often accompanied by depression. The name bipolar disorder comes from the fact that these people experience moods at both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes, mania and depression can be evident at the same time. The bouts of mania and depression are usually separated by periods of normal moods.

Types

The primary types of bipolar disorder are bipolar I, bipolar II, and cyclothymia. Bipolar I is a relatively form of depression, characterized by at least one episode of mania. Bipolar II is more severe, characterized by a major depressive episode. Cyclothymia is the mildest form of bipolar disorder that is different from bipolar I and II. Cyclothymia is a chronic mood disorder that involves numerous mood disturbances.

Signs and Symptoms

The primary signs of bipolar disorder include a depressive episode, manic episode, hypomanic episode, and mixed affective episode. A depressive episode is usually the first of these signs, and it is characterized by sadness, guilt, anxiety, and isolation. Many people in this stage experiences sleeplessness and loss of appetite, as well as self-loathing.

In the manic episode stage, people experience elevated moods, both good and bad. Many people have a decreased need for sleep, some sleeping as little as three hours a night. People's thoughts often race when they have a manic episode. It is worth noting patients are not diagnosed with bipolar disorder until they reach this stage. Those who have experienced a depressive episode may or may not slip into mania.

A hypomanic episode is a mild form of mania characterized by optimism and a decreased need for sleep. It is generally not inhibiting to most behaviors. This is in contrast to mania, which can be devastating to people's abilities to function as normal. Many people with hypomania are actually more productive than usual, some experiencing an increase in productivity or a longer attention span.

Finally, a mixed affective episode happens when mania and clinical depression occur together. This type of episode is the most dangerous since people can have conflicting thoughts. Many people who experience a mixed affective episode can have lots of ideas and creativity, yet still feel as though they are a failure and cannot accomplish goals.

Causes

Causes for bipolar disorder vary. The most common is a genetic variation. Sometimes, the disorder can be caused by physiological factors, such as abnormalities in brain circuits. There is also evidence that environmental factors may be at play with some people who have bipolar disorder, including life events and interpersonal relationships. In most cases, the people who suffer from bipolar disorder experience a disturbing life event and are also genetically predisposed to the disorder.

Treatment

There are many different pharmacological and psychotherapeutic methods used to treat bipolar disorder. Medications include mood stabilizers, the most common and effective of which seems to be lithium carbonate.