Different from normal mood states of happiness and sadness, symptoms of manic-depressive illness can be severe and life threatening. However, because many artists, musicians and writers have suffered from bipolar illness, the effect of the illness has sometimes been trivialised, and regarded in some way as beneficial for artistic creativity. In fact, for those afflicted with the illness, it is extremely distressing and disruptive.
The frequency of the swings between these two states, and the duration of the mood, varies from person to person. It is often not recognized at first as a serious disorder, and people who have it may suffer needlessly for years or even decades. This disorder is not a character flaw, and it is not your fault. It is a serious mood disorder that affects a person's ability to function in every day activities. It affects one's work, one's family, and one's social life.With the proper treatment, Bipolar disorder can be effectively managed and a person can lead a normal life.
A person's family history and genetics often play an important role in the greater likelihood of someone having this disorder in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to the disorder's manifestation. Bipolar disorder is most often experienced as a swing between a manic and a depressed mood, which may often be related to increased stress or other event in a person's normal life. Nearly anything can trigger a person to shift in mood, and sometimes there is no obvious trigger at all. Often, the first manic episode is triggered because of some external stressor the person has experienced. However, the hallmark of Bipolar disorder is that the person's extreme moods often seem to come on of their own accord. Once the person's mood begins to cycle, there is often not an external reason the person can find for feeling the way that he/she does.
Bipolar disorder is the third most common mood disorder after major depression and dysthymic disorder. It affects about 1% of adults during their lifetime. Symptoms typically begin during adolescence or early adulthood, and continue to recur throughout life. Men and women are equally likely to develop this disabling illness. The consequences of the illness can be devastating, and may include marital break-ups, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse. Bipolar illness is often complicated by co-occurring alcohol or substance abuse. Without effective treatment, bipolar illness leads to suicide in nearly 30% of cases.
What are the symptoms of Bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder involves cycles of mania and depression. These two mood states can be thought of as opposite ends of a range. At one end is severe depression; then moderate depression; mild and brief mood disturbances (that many people call 'the blues'); normal mood; hypomania (a mild form of mania); and at the other extreme is mania.
Some people with untreated bipolar
disorder have repeated depressive episodes and only an occasional
episode of hypomania (bipolar II). In the other extreme, mania may
be the main problem and depression may occur only infrequently.
Signs and symptoms of mania include periods of:
Excessively 'high' or euphoric feelings
Signs and symptoms of depression include periods of:
Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
An early sign of manic-depressive illness
may be hypomania, in which the person shows a high level of energy,
excessive moodiness or irritability, and impulsive or reckless behaviour.
Hypomania may feel good to the person who experiences it, so even
when family and friends learn to recognise the mood swings, the individual
often will deny that anything is wrong. In its early stages, bipolar
disorder may appear to be a problem other than mental illness. For
example, it may first appear as alcohol or drug abuse, or poor school
or work performance. If left untreated, bipolar disorder tends to
worsen, and the person experiences episodes of full-fledged mania
and clinical depression.
Psychotic symptoms include: hallucinations
(hearing, seeing, or otherwise sensing things which do not exist)
and delusions (false beliefs that illogical, held despite evidence
to the contrary).
Symptoms of mania and depression may
be present at the same time ( mixed state). The symptoms often include
agitation, trouble sleeping, a significant change in appetite, psychosis,
and suicidal thinking. Depressed mood accompanies manic activation.
Symptoms (mania, depression, or mixed state) are usually limited to distinct episodes of illness. These episodes are separated by periods during which the person suffers few to no symptoms. Some episodes can be as long as 1 year whereas others may be as short as several hours, depending on the patient. With time, episodes become more frequent. When four or more episodes of illness occur within a 12-month period, the person is said to have manic-depressive illness with rapid cycling. In most patients, the number of episodes experienced in a lifetime is approximately 8-10, but many patients experience more. In rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, 4 or more episodes can occur in each year-long period.