Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, sometimes referred to as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual or extreme shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Symptoms are severe and sustained, and are different from the usual ups and downs people go through from time to time.

Signs and Symptoms

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called "mood episodes." An overly joyful or overexcited state is called a manic episode, and an extremely sad or hopeless state is called a depressive episode. Sometimes, a mood episode includes symptoms of both mania and depression and is called a “mixed state.”

Signs and symptoms of the manic phase include:

  • Elation or euphoria
  • Exaggerated self-esteem
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Rapid speech or over talkativeness
  • Being easily distracted
  • Impulsive behaviour and taking part in a lot of pleasurable, high-risk behaviours, such as spending sprees
Signs and symptoms of the depressive phase include:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering and making decisions

Causes/Physiology

The precise cause of bipolar disorder is not known, however, research suggests that genetics plays a strong role. The illness is not caused by stress or difficult family relationships but these factors may "trigger" an episode in someone with bipolar disorder.

Treatments

Treatment for bipolar disorder includes pharmacotherapy (medications) and psychosocial treatments (psychotherapy, rehabilitation) or a combination of the two. Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed and controlled by combining treatment and a healthy lifestyle.

Related Links

Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com

National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov