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Bipolar Disorder

– formerly known as manic depression is a mental disorder that causes shifts in energy, mood, activity and the capacity to perform day to day tasks.

There are three types of bipolar disorder which all show obvious changes in mood, energy and activity. They produce states of extreme elation, euphoria, intense irritability and high energy levels known as manic episodes. The flip side of the disorder produces very sad, morose, and low feelings and these are known as depressive episodes. Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.

Bipolar I Disorder:  manic episodes that last for a minimum of 7 days or have manic symptoms so serious that hospitalization may be required. Depressive episodes last at least 2 weeks. Manic and depressive symptoms can also occur concurrently.

Bipolar II Disorder:  shows a pattern of depressive and hypomanic episodes without the extreme manic episodes that define Bipolar I Disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder or Cyclothymia:  indicates periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms which last for at least two years in adults and one year in children and adolescents. The symptoms are milder in this disorder and do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.

Signs of mania and hypomania may include:

Hypomania would be a less severe demonstration of the same symptom

•         High energy levels

•         Overconfidence

•         Decreased need for sleep

•         Rapid speech, jumping thoughts and racing ideas

•         Agitation

•         Aggression when challenged

•         Easily distracted

•         Undue elation

•         Poor decision-making — for example, going on buying sprees, taking sexual risks or making foolish investments

Signs of a major depressive episode may include:

•         Depressed mood, sad, empty and feeling of hopelessness

•         Insomnia or sleeping too much

•         Restlessness

•         Lethargy

•         Loss of interest in all or most pleasurable activities

•         Fatigue or loss of energy

•         Excessive guilt and shame feelings

•         Thinking impairment

•         Inability to concentrate

•         Suicidal tendencies

 

Research around the cause of Bipolar disorder is unclear but suggests that biological differences, genetics and environmental factors may play a role in the illness.  It is reportedly more likely for a person to develop Bipolar in the instance where a first degree relative has the same condition. There also appears to be a physical change in the brain possibly connected to a chemical imbalance. It is suspected that extreme stress and / or childhood trauma may increase the chance of developing the disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition. Treatment is directed at managing symptoms and may include medication and Psychotherapy.

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