B ipolar disorder – also called manic depression or bipolar illness – is a mental condition that causes a person to fluctuate between mania and depression. It is characterized by unusual shifts in mood and energy levels.

But of course it isn’t so simple. People are often mistaken about bipolar people – they believe that they are angles one minute and devils the next; they also believe that these people can control their mood swings.

Well they can control the mood swings to a certain degree. Bipolar illness can be treated effectively with medication and therapy, and those affected by it, can live relatively normal lives – but it cannot ever be cured.

The exact symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. For some people, depression causes the most problems; for other people, manic symptoms are the main concern.

People with bipolar disorder may also abuse alcohol or substances, have relationship problems, or perform poorly in school or at work. It may be difficult to recognize these problems as signs of a major mental illness.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe. These mood swings are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. For many people bipolar disorder symptoms result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and often suicide.

Bipolar disorder often appears in the late teens or early adult years. At least half of all cases start before age 25. Some people have their first symptoms during childhood, while others may only develop symptoms late in life.

What Causes Manic Depression?

Bipolar disorder (manic depression) tends to run in families. Most scientists agree that there is no single cause. It seems to be many factors that act together to produce the illness or increase risk.

So how do bipolar people feel? When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. You want to get into bed in a dark room and retreat from the world. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. You are productive, creative and sexy – you don’t want to sleep. You feel like you are the king or queen of the world.

Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year, or as often as several times a day. In some cases, bipolar disorder causes symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. This is called a mixed state. People with bipolar disorder also may be explosive and irritable during a mood episode.

Intense Emotional States

People with bipolar disorder experience unusually intense emotional states that occur in distinct periods called “mood episodes.” Each mood episode represents a drastic change from a person’s usual mood and behaviour. Often this is very noticeable to friends and loved ones

Sometimes, a person with severe episodes of mania or depression has psychotic symptoms too, like hallucinations or delusions.

Bipolar disorder is divided into several subtypes. Each has a different pattern of symptoms. Types of bipolar disorder include:

  • Bipolar I disorder. Mood swings with bipolar I cause significant difficulty in your job, school or relationships. Manic episodes can be severe and dangerous.
  • Bipolar II disorder. Bipolar II is less severe than bipolar I. You may have an elevated mood, irritability and some changes in your functioning, but generally you can carry on with your normal daily routine.
  • Cyclothymic disorder. Cyclothymic disorder, also known as cyclothymia, is a mild form of bipolar disorder. With cyclothymia, hypomania and depression can be disruptive, but the highs and lows are not as severe as they are with other types of bipolar disorder.

How to Diagnose Bipolar illness

When getting a diagnosis, a doctor or health care provider should conduct a physical examination, an interview, and lab tests.

Currently, bipolar disorder cannot be identified through a blood test or a brain scan, but these tests can help rule out other factors that may contribute to mood problems, like a stroke, brain tumour, or thyroid condition.

If the problems are not caused by other illnesses, your health care provider may conduct a mental health evaluation or provide a referral to a psychiatrist, who is experienced in diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder.

It is a fact that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help when they are depressed than when experiencing mania or hypomania. Therefore, a careful medical history is needed to assure that bipolar disorder is not mistakenly diagnosed as major depression.

Lifelong Treatment

Bipolar disorder cannot be cured, but it can be treated effectively over the long-term. Proper treatment helps many people with bipolar disorder—even those with the most severe forms of the illness—gain better control of their mood swings and related symptoms. But because it is a lifelong illness, long-term, continuous treatment is needed to control symptoms.

If you have any symptoms of depression or mania, see your doctor or clinic. Bipolar disorder doesn’t get better on its own. Getting treatment from a mental health provider with experience in bipolar disorder can help you get your symptoms under control.

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