Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder (also called bipolar disease or manic depression) is a serious mental illness that is marked by extreme—and in some cases, rapid or abrupt—shifts in mood, from mania to depression.
During periods of mania, an individual may feel extremely excited, impulsive, euphoric, and full of energy. The person might engage in risky or unhealthy behaviors such as drug use, spending sprees, or impulsive and unprotected sex.
Periods of depression might bring on feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities one normally enjoys. During this phase, a person might sleep too much or too little or have thoughts of suicide.
Sometimes the shifts in mood can be severe; other times, the person might experience a normal mood between episodes of mania and depression. Regardless, people with bipolar disorder often have difficulty coping with everyday life. They often perform poorly or inconsistently at school or at work and have trouble maintaining relationships.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
While bipolar I and II are the main types of the disease, there are other forms as well. The types of bipolar disorder include:
Bipolar I Disorder
This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by the occurrence of at least one manic episode and one or more major depression episodes. Bipolar I disorder is equally common in men and women, with the first episode in men usually being mania, and the first episode in women typically being major depression.
Bipolar II Disorder
People with bipolar II experience major depression, but instead of full-on mania, they experience hypomania. In hypomania, a person will still exhibit higher energy, impulsiveness, and excitability; but the mood is not as extreme as full-fledged mania. Bipolar II disorder is more common in women than men. In men, the number of hypomanic episodes equals or exceeds the number of depressive episodes, while in women depressive episodes dominate.
This is a “mild” form of bipolar disorder, with mood swings that are less severe, and episodes shifting from hypomania to mild depression.
Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder
This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by rapid changes in mood—with four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed symptoms within a year. Some people experience more than one episode in a week or even within one day. Rapid cycling seems to be more common in people who have their first episode at a younger age, and it affects more women than men.
Diagnosing Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is rare, with a prevalence of between 0.4 percent and 1.6 percent of the population. Bipolar disorder is difficult to diagnose because mood swings vary greatly in frequency and severity. Studies show that about one in three people diagnosed with major depression may actually have bipolar disorder and that 40 percent of people with bipolar disorder receive another diagnosis first and could go several years before being correctly diagnosed. Bipolar disorder is also especially difficult to diagnose in children and adolescents because they tend to have more erratic and rapid changes in mood, behavior, and energy levels than adults. These changes may be hard to differentiate from normal ups and downs.
Left untreated, bipolar disorder tends to worsen, with an individual typically experiencing more frequent and more severe episodes over time. It is possible to lead a healthy and productive life with the help with psychological counseling and appropriate medications.